This week, we remember the 2,977 victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the
World Trade Center in New York City. For our USF College of Education alumna, Dr.
Kristy Verdi PhD with the non-profit Learn and Serve Tampa, this day is a day to do
good and give back to the community in their efforts to transform the anniversary
of 9/11 into a day of doing good.

Dr. Kristy Verdi, who graduated with her doctorate from the College of Education in
2017 and has been an educator for 29 years, is the founder and president of Learn
and Serve Tampa, a not-for-profit organization that strives to bring quality service-learning
into local K-12 schools and make service-learning projects and programs readily available
to Tampa-area K-12 students.

According to Dr. Verdi why she started this: “…When meeting with my service-learning
leadership class. A student who had moved in from New Jersey the year before brought
up doing some type of remembrance activity for Patriot Day. Most of the other students
looked perplexed. The young man explained. Although he was only 3 or 4 years old at
the time, he had seen and heard things that many of the others had not. After more
conversation, it seemed that many students knew it was a tragic event in our nation’s
history, but many had little knowledge about the course of events.” Further adding
“I had one student prepare an email to the social studies department asking them to
let their students each make two stars before Friday, September 11, and to share the
PowerPoint so each student would understand the relevance. The display was beautiful,
but those students found plenty of things to change and started planning for the next
year right away. The next year, the Patriot Day project was held again, only this
time the stars were a little bigger and my students laid out a giant star using string
in which to align them. They added geometry to their learning objectives. When it
was complete, they met and reflected on the project, and decided to go bigger. Within
a few weeks, the students presented an even bigger idea for the next display. And
so, a tradition was born.”

The tradition continued this year on campus. On Fowler Field, each 9×12 rectangle
marker is laid out and it contains the name of a 9/11 victim and their location that
day. The markers are red, white, and blue and are laid out in the shape of an American
flag. There were a total of 2,977 names to spread out on this flag. Seven red stripes,
six white stripes, and a field of blue in one corner making out the American flag.

Dr. Verdi hopes that September 11 every year, allows our youth an opportunity to remember
and to serve. “It is part of my mission to see this memorial continue so that we can
truly carry on the memories of those we lost that day and to promote youth-conceived
and youth-led service in their honor.”

To learn more about this project and Learn and Serve Tampa, visit: https://www.learnandservetampa.org



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