Mepham Students Meet Veteran They Helped Sponsor

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After months of fundraising for the veteran organization Building Homes for Heroes, seniors involved in the Mepham High School’s service learning project were able to meet the individual at the receiving end.

Retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer Ryan Shannon was injured while serving in the military and later eligible to receive a mortgage-free home in Illinois. Through various fundraising events and the installation of a Flag Field of Honor, the Mepham High School community has raised more than $20,000 for the nonprofit organization benefiting veterans.

“The kids have embraced this project from the beginning and were so excited to meet Ryan,” explained social studies teacher Kerry Dennis.

After turning the key on his family’s new home in late November, Shannon traveled to New York to visit with the Mepham community on Dec. 19. 

“To see this outpouring from people I don’t know, now I do know, is amazing and I can’t thank you all enough,” Shannon said. 

It was a morning of pomp and circumstance as the Mepham foyer was transformed with patriotic balloon arches and the cafeteria a welcome brigade. The vocal group, MephAcapella, led by music teacher Christina Dimitriou, offered the gift of a capella song.

“For the rest of the day Ryan spent the day in our Participation in Government classes, Senior Experience and School and Community Leadership classes meeting with the kids and sharing his story,” Dennis further explained.

Shannon shared a message woven with notes of integrity, courage, resilience and hope.

“Today’s experience was so compelling because not only did the students get to ‘put a face with the name’ for their senior service learning project, they were able to understand the impact they have made on Ryan’s life, and to hear his captivating story firsthand,” said Robyn Einbinder, district social studies chairperson. “His message really resonated with the seniors.”

As the welcome breakfast came to a close and Shannon was gifted with Pirate gift baskets, gear and even a flag, Mepham Principal Eric Gomez prompted the crowd of seniors, saying “seniors, what do we say; Once a Pirate?” to which they exclaimed, “Always a Pirate.”