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Chowchilla VFW helps two students to D.C.

For The Madera Tribune

Chowchilla VFW Post 9896 Commander David Placencia presented $500 checks to Sydni Rios and Presten Penamante to help with their expenses for the 8th grade trip to Washington D.C.


With donations from the Chowchilla Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9896, two Chowchilla eighth graders are that much closer to a trip to Washington DC.

The Chowchilla VFW awarded Presten Penamante and Sydni Rios with $500 each to help with their expenses for the eighth grade trip to Washington D.C.

Eighth grade students from Wilson Middle School have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. this summer with School Tours of America. In 1976, Frank Harvey, a teacher from Texas took his class on a trip to Washington D.C. He was so inspired by the effect the trip had on his students that he founded the educational tour business of School Tours of America. Wilson Middle School has been participating in this educational trip of the Washington D.C. area for over 28 years. History teacher Darlene Gaffney saw the relevance of such a trip for Chowchilla students and implemented the middle school’s participation in the program.

The students gave a presentation to the Chowchilla VFW group about an upcoming trip to Washington and asked the group for any help.

“They were very excited and happy. It won’t meet their goals, but it gets them real close,” said post commander David Placencia. “Both are right about $2,000, now. This will get them close and they won’t have to sell a lot of candy anymore.”

The history curriculum taught to eighth grade students begins with studying the colonial America founding of Jamestown. The students then learn about the American Revolution and the Civil War. After learning about American history, it seems like a perfect time, to take the students to Washington D.C. where they can further their understanding of this time in American history.

While in Washington D.C., the students will visit many sites, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Monticello, Jamestown Settlement Park, Colonial Williamsburg, Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Smithsonian Complex, Holocaust Museum, Iwo Jima Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, White House, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and Mount Vernon.

Jacob Pimentel, who teaches eighth grade history at Wilson Middle School, says he hopes the students “will have a more meaningful and deeper appreciation of our nation’s history after seeing these sites.”

There are 24 students from Wilson School who will be participating in the trip at a cost of $2,664 per student. The cost of the trip must be funded by the families of the students. The students hold various fundraising events and are assisted by donations from civic clubs.

VFW Commander David Placencia said “the Chowchilla VFW Post 9896 is proud to be able to assist the students. We recognize the importance of establishing a sense of pride in America in our young people. We are fortunate that Chowchilla schools teach patriotism and encourage our youth to learn about America and American history from an early age. We are proud of the teachers who facilitate this learning. We are happy we were able to help these two students.”

The group tries to help out as much as possible with what they can.

“People will come and ask if we will donate to some causes and needs,” Placencia said. “This is something we accepted. If we can help them, we can. With COVID, it’s been kind of minimal. There hasn’t been any fairs or anything like that.”

After the pair presented their proposal to the VFW, Placencia said there was a 100 percent agreement to give them a donation.

“We want to get them orientated to raise patriotism as young as we can. it starts with the elementary school. Every year, they have a 9/11 ceremony. This is where both of those kids came from. they were a part of that assembly. We want to raise the awareness to let them know the cost of freedom is. We want them to respect that. That’s what our goal is.”

The VFW raises funds throughout the year with their fireworks booth, a beer booth at the Chowchilla Fair and at monthly breakfasts they host with the American Legion.

“We can donate whatever we can,” Placencia said. “The fair has been absent for the past three years and that has minimized the amount of money brought in.”

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Madera Tribune Sports Editor Tyler A. Takeda also contributed to this article.


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