For one week in fall 2013, Pioneer Heritage Middle School in Frisco, Texas, was transformed into a celebration of red, white, and blue as the school community honored military heroes. The PTO-sponsored Veterans Week combined lessons in civics with community service, raising money for a local veterans memorial in the process.

Activities included classroom presentations from local veterans groups (complete with props like gas masks and jumpsuits from one vet-eran’s days in the Air Force), a 1-mile run/walk, a silent auction, flag-folding ceremonies, and students writing letters of thanks that were presented to veterans. Throughout the week, 300 flags adorned the school grounds and trees were decorated with both yellow and red, white, and blue ribbons.

As the PTO started planning, leaders realized that many students at the school, which serves grades 6-8, didn’t have a clear understanding of who veterans are, what they do and why, what the country’s flag represents, and how it should be treated. Leveraging as many PTO committees as possible, the parent group found the volunteer base it needed for a week of events that involved all 900 students.

The theme of “Freedom Is Not Free, Thank a Veteran” was carried out in T-shirts the group designed and presold online, on decorations and bulletin boards throughout the school, and on bracelets, flyers, tickets, and banners. The entire week’s events were supported heavily by community sponsorships and donations, with the PTO contributing $500 from its budget.

“Reaching out to the community was a very rewarding experience for all...the committee, the students, the community, and most [important] the veterans,” says PTO president Kara Cleaver. “We were honored to present the VFW post with a check for $3,235 for the Veterans Wall of Honor.”