NORTH ROYALTON – St. Albert the Great School has always had a reverence for the military and for this reason, it will be bestowed a state award.

Each year around Veterans Day, the school opens its doors to serve and celebrate servicemen and women.

It partners with Wally Ohler, the Ohio Veterans’ Relief liaison, and the sixth-grade students interview and write an essay about veterans or active duty military personnel. In gratitude, the school then salutes the military with breakfast, tributes, songs and poems.

This coupled with the school’s ongoing support of military families has earned it the Purple Star, an award created in 2016 when veterans, educators, military family members, students, service members and others came together to talk about ways schools could better serve military students and families. The award, a two-year designation, is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

Principal Ed Vittardi and Barb Barbo, the school’s liaison with the ODE, said the school owes these individuals and their families the most significant and heartfelt appreciation for all they sacrifice.

“And, our environment as with any other challenge has to be inclusive to meet the uniqueness of every child and their family,” Vittardi said. “I think what we’re seeing is that military students and families have specific needs, different needs than other students.”

He credits the award to Barbo’s dedication, especially with her personal experience of having a child in the military.

“Her year-long dedication to our programs of appreciation of our veterans and all the related efforts is a blessing to not only the veterans and their families but also to our students and their families,” Vittardi said.

Barbo said this award is not an acknowledgment of the school’s efforts but is about the military and all it does.

“Really the focus is on the great sacrifices, honor, love of country and patriotism our military personnel personify. We owe them a debt we can never repay but need to try and be aware of each day,” Barbo said.

The ODE estimates there are 34,000 children in Ohio with one or more parents serving in the military. Some of these students will attend six to nine schools during their K-12 years. Besides changing schools often, a student can also be affected by a military parent’s deployment. The ODE said schools can help students and families cope with issues resulting from their military status by connecting them with the resources they need.

The Purple Star Award for military-friendly schools recognizes schools that show a major commitment to serving students and families connected to the nation’s armed forces.

In order to qualify, the school must have a staff point of contact for military students and families, which is Barbo; the liaison must complete professional development on special considerations for military students and families under federal law; the liaison finds and informs teachers of the military-connected students in their classrooms and the special considerations military families and students should receive; and the school must keep a dedicated page on its website featuring resources for military families.

Ohler said St. Albert is more than deserving of the award.

“Those kids are my band of angels. They help me plant the seeds of kindness sending care packages to hundreds of military men and women,” he said. “St. Albert the Great is so deserving of this Purple Star. Their generosity of our troops is so appreciated and remind servicemen and women that their efforts to keep our nation safe are well worth the sacrifices.”