The students at St. Louis Catholic School (SLS) in Nokomis were in session on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, and even hosted some very special guests as part of their Lunch with a Hero program.
Men and women from Nokomis Police and Fire Departments, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Services and the Illinois State Police were invited to spend the day with the preschool through eighth grade students. Guests included Montgomery County Sheriff Rick Robbins, Commander Mark Gillock and Hanford Tanner with Illinois State Police District #18, Shawn Hocq and Jonathan Albright with the Nokomis Police Department, and Tyler Batty, Jaxson Batty, Travis Hocq, Jill Quinn and Jared Spears with Nokomis Ambulance Services.
This is the first year for the program, which was brought to the parochial school by their new principal Pierre Antoine, who has helped organize similar programs for the last six years. Antoine enlisted the help of the student council officers, Ian Keller (president), Garrett Engelman (vice-president) and Sophia Dailey (secretary) who were tasked with greeting the local heros and acting as student liaisons.
The guests wore masks and were paired off into groups of two before being dispatched to pre-assigned classrooms where they spoke to the SLS students; with the exception of Sheriff Robbins and Officer Hocq who spoke to students on their own. The local heroes spoke about their careers and answered questions about their jobs.
Following the informal presentations, the special visitors took time to eat lunch with the students in the classes they spoke to. Lisa Tester prepared a special homemade Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans, carrot cake and brownies in honor of the guests. The meal was free for the students as well as the visitors. After the meal the guests attended recess with the students.
“The Lunch with a Hero program is aimed at recognizing the heros that walk among us in our daily lives,” said Principal Antoine. “This is St. Louis Schools way of saying thank you.”
St. Louis Catholic School intends to continue the program in following years. In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, next year’s program will honor local veterans. The 2022 program will honor retired clergy, nuns and Catholic school educators.
St. Louis Catholic School students will be given Wednesday, Nov. 25 off school, as a trade for attending on Veterans Day.