The Clewiston High School Public Service Academy (CHSPSA) celebrates its 10th annual Veterans Day ceremony this week to honor military members and veterans. The first ceremony was planned in 2011 by Mayor Kristine Petersen, who is a criminal justice teacher at Clewiston High School and retired law enforcement officer.
In her classroom, she teaches the students about the contributions to our nation by the selfless service of active-duty and veteran service members.
Mayor Petersen shares a philosophy with her students that extends beyond the walls of her classroom, “No one left behind.”
One year, she coordinated a Bronze Star ceremony for one of her former students. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded for meritorious service or acts of valor and is the fourth-highest ranking award a service member can receive. She hosted his ceremony in the very place where it all started, her classroom.
Another year, students inspired by her message helped raise funds to install a memorial honoring fallen soldiers who trained at Riddle Field in Clewiston during World War II. The memorial now stands in Clewiston’s Civic Park and pays tribute to their service and sacrifice.
Petersen’s military pride runs deep. “My dad was in the Army and a patriot. I am a Navy wife. My brother-in-law was in the Coast Guard and my son-in-law was in the Navy.”
“The military provides a good opportunity for students who may not be able to afford college. Through the military, they can find growth and gain skills to not only take care of themselves but also those around them.”
For this year’s Veterans Day service, Mayor Petersen recruited one of her colleagues, Master Chief Petty Officer Sam Thomas, a retired Navy veteran. Master Chief Thomas is a student coach at Clewiston High School who helps seniors stay on track with their education and achieve their curriculum requirements.
“In the Glades, we tend to have a larger group of veterans in the area,” shared Petersen. “Working with your hands on the land and patriotism seems to go hand in hand.”
Though Petersen herself does not have direct family ties to the agricultural community, she feels a connection. “I consider my students my family,” stated Petersen. “Most of my students, their families work in the agricultural industry, so by extension, I am connected. When we see the issues going on, I know it impacts my students and everyone in my class.”