By Carlotta Mohamed
In a longstanding tradition for over 100 years at PS 79 Francis Lewis in Whitestone, students dressed in red, white and blue observed “Flag Day” June 14 with a patriotic performance followed by a flag planting in the yard.
Flag Day is celebrated nationwide commemorating the adoption of the U.S. flag, also known as “Old Glory,” on June 14, 1777 by the Second Continental Congress, according to the American Enterprise Institute. In observance of Flag Day, approximately 1,200 students from pre-K through fifth grade come together every year displaying patriotism in the schoolyard with parents, teachers, and faculty members in attendance.
“It’s a celebration for our children where they can see that despite all of our differences…when they look around at our community and population, we have very different cultures and ethnicities,” said Principal George Carter. “It’s something we could all come together around and celebrate our flag, and be proud of who we are, where we are, and how we come together as a people.”
Laura Jean Ballon, a former veteran who served in the armed forces and reserves from 1983-1996 and a fifth-grade teacher at PS 79 for 26 years, organized the event with a performance from the 54-member student drill team marching in cadence with the American Flag, commemorating the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces.
“Flag Day is a very special day and it’s in my heart because I served in the military back in the ‘80s,” Ballon said. “This is my 14th year celebrating Flag Day with the drill team. The children have worked very hard from 7 to 8 a.m. four days a week for the past month.”
Children sang patriotic songs such as “This is My Land,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “I’m Proud to Be an American.”
Sarah Kaplan, 19, of Long Island City, sang the national anthem, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Journey From the Past” from the musical “Anastasia.”
“With all of the drama going on in our country right now, it’s nice for us to come together and represent love and show our love for the land we all share,” said Kaplan. “It’s my third year singing at the celebration, I’m thankful for our country being the land of the free and home of the brave.”
Looking in from the sidewalk, Ana Chevalier, 43, said it was her fourth year coming to the celebration.
“They worked so hard and it’s important for the children to feel proud of the country and people who fought for them, their freedom and to be brave,” Chevalier said. “It’s a very beautiful celebration.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha