Last week, Chandler View Elementary teacher-librarian Edward T. Ventura Jr. called out the Cozad FFA's spirit week celebration of the USA, which they called 'Merica Day. For those who aren't familiar, FFA is the Future Farmers of America, a youth program that aims to impart leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. "'Merica Day" invited members to wear red, white, and blue as a fundraiser for Folds of Honor, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships to children of fallen military service members.
Despite being more than three hours away from Cozad, the OPS employee apparently took it upon himself to do more than just tweet about this. He apparently contacted the Cozad School District to express his displeasure and suggest that this patriotic fundraiser for fallen heroes' families was something that needed "#RacialJustice," or something.
Cozad's superintendent, Ron Wymore, responded with a letter to the editor of the North Platte Telegraph, saying in part:
The Cozad School District was surprised and disappointed to receive communication from someone named Ed Ventura asserting that the school district has somehow acted improperly in allowing our FFA chapter to celebrate National FFA Week. In particular, Mr. Ventura was offended by the FFA students’ decision to support the scholarship fund Folds of Honor by wearing shirts and dressing in red, white and blue colors.
We are not aware that Mr. Ventura has any familiarity with the Cozad School District in any way. To our knowledge he has never visited our school, and he did not reach out to us to discuss his concern prior to making his own determination about our intentions and sharing it widely, and this is why respect and discourse, and not assumptions, are so critical at this time in our country. Indeed, all we are able to discern from a simple Google search is that Mr. Ventura is an educator in the Omaha metro area who appears to have shared in the terribly unfortunate circumstance of losing a spouse like so many of the recipients of Folds of Honor family scholarships. We are sympathetic to these experiences, and sensitive to ensure that all individuals in our district feel welcome in our school.
The Cozad School District is proud of our student body, and in particular is proud of the FFA’s decision to support the children of fallen veterans. Wearing red, white and blue is an entirely appropriate way to honor fallen veterans and to raise funds to support scholarships for their families.
The Cozad community responded after this news ripped through the town over the weekend, with several vehicles lining the streets near the school in support yesterday morning:
Instead of shutting down this organization's fundraiser, Ventura seems to have kick-started it. The Lincoln Journal-Star has reported this afternoon that more than $2,000 has been raised for Folds of Honor, and I imagine that number will rise as this story gets more widely reported.
The Journal-Star also noted that Ventura hasn't responded to their request for comment about all of this.