By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — For three decades, Massachusetts School of Law hasn’t had a flagpole outside its building. But thanks to the work of some students, that has changed.
The school’s Veterans Association, formed two years ago, raised the money to install the school’s first flagpole, which will be dedicated to all American veterans in a ceremony tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Club leaders Deanna Devenes and Hadler Charles, an Army staff sergeant, said they came to the school’s Federal Street campus in the fall of 2011 to find that the only flags on site were inside the building.
“It was weird to go to a building and not see a flagpole, which symbolizes America and what the troops fight for,” Charles, the club’s vice president, said.
Beyond that, there wasn’t even a veterans organization for students to rally around, the students said. The absence of a club presented a real need for the community, according to Charles.
“I knew there would be other veterans here, just by looking at some of the numbers on the website,” he said.
Meanwhile, during her orientation, Devenes, whose boyfriend is Marine, asked Michael Coyne, the school’s associate dean, about the presence of a veterans club. Devenes said Coyne told her that if she could find other students on campus with a similar interest, she could start an organization.
Soon after, students began circulating petitions to form the 25-member Veterans Association. Once established, the group dove right into fundraising for a flagpole, selling shirts, holding bake sales and running benefits at local restaurants to raise the $5,000 needed for the project, Charles said.
The pole was erected in the last couple weeks outside the main school building. It stands adjacent to two benches and a small stone monument honoring “America’s veterans, whose tireless service for freedom and democracy enables us to pursue our dreams. In war and peace, they stand forever tall.”
Coyne said veterans have always been a part school life at Massachusetts College of Law, which serves around 550 students. But until now, most of their efforts have been focused on maintaining and increasing the number of flags inside the building.
The club is the first to look at something much larger, according to Paula Colby-Clements, assistant professor of law and co-director of writing and legal research at the school.
“The school community really rallied behind their efforts,” said Colby-Clements, who is also chairwoman of the Andover School Committee. “It gives us a vehicle as an institution to show how thankful we are for our veterans.”
With the group’s initial effort now realized, Devenes said she is planning to launch “care packages” drive for the troops this coming holiday season.
“Last year, what we did was we put donation boxes in front of the school for T-shirts, socks, cards,” she said. “This year, my goal is going to be to raise money, buy the items myself and ship them overseas.”