EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 4, 2013

'They're watching us from heaven'

Haverhill students turn decorations into Newtown memorial

HAVERHILL — It started as a fun classroom-door Christmas decorating project, but turned into a way for students to remember the children killed in a tragedy that shook the nation.

Hunking Middle School eighth-graders Lexy Lamparelli and Leah Maguire were excited about their classroom participating in a contest to see which homeroom had the best decorated door. They planned to create a poster with a holiday gingerbread house theme as their entry into the school-wide contest.

But when a young man in Newtown, Conn., stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 and shot 20 young children and six adults to death, Lexy and Leah changed their theme. The poster that decorated their homeroom door became a reflection of how the tragedy affected them.

The Hunking students smiled when a newspaper photographer took their picture with some of the decorations, but their tone became serious when they talked about the Newtown tragedy.

“My brother is five and in kindergarten, so it really hit home,” Lexy said. “What if this kind of thing happened to him? My family talked about it and we wanted to do this for my brother and all those children who lost their lives.”

The holiday project began when Hunking students returned from Thanksgiving break. They were invited to enter a homeroom-door decorating contest.

Principal Jared Fulgoni said the entries were impressive, including one door that was decorated with DVDs of holiday movies, another that was decorated as a fireplace and mantle with stockings hanging from it, and one that was decorated with a snowman and pictures of students. But when Fulgoni and Assistant Principal Nathan Gage saw the poster on the door of homeroom five, they knew they had their winner.

“What struck me about this door, as middle schoolers tend to not have a strong awareness of the world outside of their own, was that these kids had really captured a greater sense of what the holidays mean, and were not focused on the goal to win, but instead about sending a message that they cared about another community,” Fulgone said.

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