Photo by Jason A. Smith
Angela Elder (left), a first-grade teacher at McDonough Methodist Academy, helps some of her students to raise an American flag. The academy received the flag, and flagpole, from the Woodmen of the World organization.
By Jason A. Smith
Kim Westbrook said she wants her students to learn the value of patriotism, and to appreciate the sacrifices of military personnel.
"There are men and women dying ... every day, in service to our country," said Westbrook, director of McDonough Methodist Academy, at 151 Macon Street. "I just want these children to realize, when the flag's flying, you should remove your hat, put your hand on your heart, respect it and look at it," she said.
Students at the school, on Wednesday, raised American and Christian flags for the first time.
Westbrook said she wants to teach students to have respect for the American Flag, as well as "flag etiquette," regarding proper ways to fold and display it.
"Part of our mission here is to provide a solid Christian foundation for our children," she added. "I also feel very strongly [about] teaching children patriotism."
Westbrook said a family connection helped her to grow in her appreciation of the flag. Her husband, Derrick, is a veteran of the U.S. Army. "At this church and this school, we care about our country and we love our country," she said. "I have a flag hanging at my house. It's just a symbol of pride in our country, and honor and respect for our men and women [in the military], especially right now. We have so many in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm not forgetting them."
The flags, Westbrook continued, will also help to point area residents to the school, at McDonough First United Methodist Church. The academy started as a preschool ministry of the church more than 30 years ago, and now has students through second grade.
"We are kind of a hidden jewel, and some people don't realize we're here," said Westbrook. "A lot of people, certainly, don't realize we have grown to include elementary grades."
Students in the academy, during Wednesday's brief ceremony, sang the National Anthem and "Onward, Christian Soldiers," in anticipation of raising the flags. Nikki Babb, second-grade teacher at the school, said she hopes her young students will learn valuable lessons about Old Glory.
"I want them to know it's important to respect their country," she said. "I think they need to know about the flag and how to treat the flag, and how to behave anytime you're doing something for our country."
The flags, and a flagpole, were donated to the academy by the Woodmen of the World's Lodge No. 252, in Conyers. Mary Beth Etheridge, area manager for the non-profit organization, said her group has strived to emphasize the importance of a patriotic spirit since the 1890s.
"We give a lot of flagpoles and flags, to help generate more patriotism in our communities and our nation," Etheridge said. "One of the things we need to work really hard to do, is to get it back, and to teach our kids some of the things they have lost about the flag."
She added that Woodmen of the World donates flags in memory of victims of the terrorist attacks, which occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as in memory of military personnel.
Senoria Henderson, president of the Conyers lodge, said she was more than happy to support the academy's goal of instilling a sense of patriotism in its students. "They can learn exactly what the meaning is of the flag ... and we're honored to give it to them," she said.