Murdy Elementary School's Gratitude Project Honors Real Life Heroes

Murdy students and teacher present donation to veteran accompanied by his dog.

Sixth grade students from Murdy Elementary School concluded a yearlong study about the power of gratitude with a special celebration May 31 that honored a group of heroes who have overcome life’s greatest challenges. 

The celebration is a culminating event of “The Gratitude Project,” during which students shared what they learned about gratitude from classroom interviews with real-life war heroes, veterans, elders who escaped communist torture, and family members.  The program  opened with transitional kindergarten students from the school’s Vietnamese dual language program and sixth grade students singing “America the Beautiful” in English and Vietnamese.  During the ceremony, students shared stories and lessons from interviews with 98-year-old Tuskegee Airman and U.S. Veteran Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, U.S. Army Ranger and Vietnam Veteran 1st Lt. Dan Barlow, U.S. Navy Seal and Vietnam Veteran Andy McTigue and South Vietnamese Veterans Toan Pham, Dien Ho, and Thuan Nguyen, among others.

“The Gratitude Project is a unique and powerful project that brings history to life and makes a lasting difference in students in a way that no textbook ever could,” said Lan Nguyen, Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education vice president.  

This year, as a way to turn their gratitude into action, students sold handmade “Gratitude Project” key chains to raise money for the Veterans Canine Intelligence Academy which is led by U.S. Navy Seal Andy McTigue.  Students presented Andy with a check for $1028 to help further his mission of supporting veterans with disabilities free of charge.   

“The Gratitude Project” was launched four years ago by sixth grade teachers Valerie Del Carlo and Mark Keller.   After interviewing family elders and six in-class participants, students respond through art and writing.  Many students uncover details of their family legacy for the first time and gain a deeper understanding of freedom, hardship, bravery, and love of country.