Dozens of Ursuline Academy’s lower school students cheered in excitement and awe as a military robot roved quickly around the parking lot and crushed a soda can with full force.
As part of National Catholic Schools Week, Ursuline dedicated Wednesday to a theme of celebrating your nation and invited a New Jersey National Guard unit designed to rapidly deploy and help local commanders in case of emergency.
“This week is really about celebrating the uniqueness and the specialness of Catholic schools and Catholic education,” said Lower School Principal Sam Varano, “and what Catholic education can offer families and students.”
New Jersey National Guard 1st Lt. John Ewasko brought three military trucks and several members of his unit to the school. He has three children in Ursuline’s Lower School.
His unit is the 21st Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, which is stationed at the Fort Dix Military Base in New Jersey, a little over an hour from Ursuline.
Along with the robot demonstration, students were able to try on alien-looking suits that keep soldiers immune to harmful gasses.
They also were able to hop into an ambulance vehicle where they were told what life-saving equipment does.
Not only were the students allowed to play with mechanically lifting and lowering the gurney, but they also got a kick out of a machine that checks for breathing problems using a tube with a camera on the end that’s placed in a mouth.
The camera’s input was broadcast on a nearby monitor, and several students hysterically laughed when they saw their classmates’ canines and molars on the screen.
“Having young kids, they often don’t know exactly what we do, especially because I’m gone a lot to help out in different areas of the country protecting folks,” Ewasko said. “It means a lot to me for the school to recognize us and it’s very humbling and also very rewarding to see that they can look at our vehicles and hear what we have to say and see exactly what we do.”
The students also learned about equipment that’s in the truck that allows soldiers to communicate with others in the unit, as well as satellite monitors that can detect weapons and other threats.
“We always look forward to this week since it’s a special week on campus,” Varano said. “We have a lot of celebrations and experiences and activities that we wouldn’t normally have on a regular school day, and we like to follow the themes of each day.”
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Ursuline plans events each day this week to celebrate different themes.
Monday celebrated community service, and Ursuline collected paper towels, razors and shaving cream, noodles, coffee, fruit cups and more for local organizations.
Tuesday celebrated Ursuline’s students, with discounted merch from the school store and free Philly Factory pretzels.
Thursday will celebrate different vocations and will include trivia, games and students dressing-up as their future selves, such as wearing the uniform of their aspiring profession.
Friday will celebrate faculty, staff and volunteers with discounted school clothes, raffles with prizes, a kickball challenge, a hula hoop contest and more.
The celebration will conclude Saturday when Ursuline celebrates its families through bingo with prizes and letters and cards for parents.
After Wednesday’s demonstrations, the students gave the soldiers large quantities of goodies to bring back to their New Jersey base, including coffee, protein bars and sports drinks.
“These are things that they requested that they could really use everyday to keep themselves going,” Varano said. “It’s great that the kiddos can learn what the military does everyday to protect our communities.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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