Purple Star Room allows students to communicate with family in military


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

A new room at Austintown Fitch High School will allow students of those serving in the military to communicate with their parents and one another.

The Purple Star Room features tables for students to gather and a television equipped with a webcam so students can communicate with their parents over Skype. Five paintings by local artist Ray Simon, each telling the story of a branch of the military, adorn the re-purposed classroom’s purple walls.

District officials dedicated the room Tuesday with a brief ceremony outside the school.

“We felt we needed a place for the kids to be able to do this,” said Jack Kidd, a member of the district’s Purple Star Committee.

The committee helps meet the needs of students who have family members in the military. There are about 80 such students in the district.

The district recently received a Purple Star Award from the Ohio Department of Education, which recognizes schools that show a major commitment to students and families serving in the military.

Jim Penk, the high school’s assistant principal, said the award sparked the idea to create the room.

“We do a lot in the district to honor our veterans and active military, but the award really inspired our Purple Star Committee to do more for our military-connected students,” Penk said.

Simon said he always appreciates an opportunity to create artwork that honors the military because his father served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

The paintings were paid for with donations from local organizations and community members, including the Austintown Fitch Class of 1962; Betras, Kopp & Harshman; Karlock Podiatry & Associates; Greenwood Chevrolet; and Denise DeBartolo York and Dr. John York of the San Francisco 49ers.

Ken Jakubec, a veteran and former school board member, and his wife donated the tables and chairs.

Kidd said the room provides another example of the district’s dedication to military families and veterans.

“Veterans love this community, and this community loves veterans,” Kidd said.

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