Jenkins 3rd graders share kindness with Airman

Jenkins 3rd graders share kindness with Airman
Posted on 05/26/2022
Airman visits Jenkins
Jenkins 3rd graders share kindness with Airman in Saudi Arabia

The third grade students at Jenkins Elementary have been exploring ways to reach out to others with an expression of kindness. They have exchanged in class about methods of sharing kindness with one another, with friends, with their neighbors, and with the community.  Throughout the year, they've sent letters to first responders thanking them for their service and caring hearts.

Early last March, the opportunity to share kindness with someone who was far away from home -- came across the desk of third grade teacher, Paula Gambill, who is also the HPS Teacher of the Year.  Gambill received notification about an Air Force Senior Airman who was serving in Saudi Arabia, nearly 7,000 miles away from Jenkins Elementary.

The third grade students began to write letters to Senior Airman Ethan Phillips. They told Phillips about their favorite sports, colors, games and even homework -- which according to Phillips, helped him to laugh a little and take his mind off the stress of being so far away from home.

A native of Illinois, Phillips recently returned to the United States and he is now stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC.

"I cherish the letters from the students and I've shared their words with everyone who serves with me. We also appreciate the students sending several boxes of Girl Scout Cookies--which didn't last long," Phillips said.  

Phillips wanted to thank the students, but not just with a card.  He believed he needed to thank them in-person. So he hit the road--driving from Goldsboro, NC to Hickory, NC -- to surprise the students who had become his extended family.

The third grade teachers at Jenkins gathered their students in one classroom to meet with a "surprise" guest. The students had no idea who was visiting their school, but once Senior Airman Phillips walked through the door, wearing his uniform, it didn't take long for the third graders to figure it out!  The cheers of excitement could be heard through the halls!

Airman Phillips shared about his military responsibilities in Saudi Arabia, adding reflections of his living conditions and the traditions of a different culture. He also shared how much the students' letters meant to him. 
"Your strong leadership, combined with generous acts of kindness, is a character trait that I hope you will carry for the rest of your lives.

"Your kindness lifted my spirits. I will always remember you. On behalf of those who serve with me in the United States Air Force, we thank the third grade students of Jenkins Elementary School!" said Airman Phillips.

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(Post/photos by Beverly Snowden, HPS director of communications)
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