By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor

In her first year as principal of Augusta Ranch Elementary School, Terrie Barnes handed out a homework assignment to all 1,000 students.

“We are asking every single student in school to write some kind of thank-you note,” Barnes said. “If they are in kindergarten or preschool, they can do a handprint.”

The recipients of those thank-you notes are veterans and active-duty service members, and the assignment is due Nov. 2.

Those notes will be presented to veterans and active-duty service members invited to a breakfast at the school on Nov. 9 – the last school day before Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

“Our vision is when veterans come in that day, we will have tables all decorated with centerpieces and a 1,000 thank-you letters for them,” said Barnes, a long-time educator. “While they’re sitting at the table eating muffins and Starbucks coffee, they can read the four to five letters before them.

“Reading cards that a first-grader or sixth-grader wrote thanking them for service – that is a pretty powerful thing,” she added.

Attendees will be treated to singing from a school choir and the presentation of colors by a high school ROTC.

Winners of the school-wide poetry and essay contest also will read their entries.

Students from Barnes’ Principal Academy – a leadership group of 5th- and 6th-graders who apply to join – will decorate, serve and clean up at the event.

Each month, the group of students do one community service project.

October’s project was collecting items for troops deployed overseas through a program that paired the students with a platoon, Barnes said.

“The kids were working with their parents, family and grandparents, collecting items for us to box to send over there,” Barnes said.

The students collected over 1,500 items that filled 61 care packages, she said.

“The kids got so excited,” she said. “We never in our wildest dream imagined we would get 61 boxes going to 21 Air Force men and women stationed somewhere.”

Barnes’ Principal Academy has grown from 40 students to 70 who meet regularly for leadership training.

Invites have been sent out via social media and newsletters, and  info has been posted on the school marquee.

Barnes said she anticipates a couple of hundred to show up for the breakfast but wasn’t sure because it’s a first for the school.

“I think it’s a neat thing that we don’t lose respect in the world and show moments of gratitude,” said Barnes, who has family members who served.