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Written by Greg Nelson, fleet manager at HighGrove

Many Americans own flags and proudly display them outside of their homes and offices. The flag is a symbol of pride and freedom.  Our Flag is a living symbol of my nation's law: the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

Our schools are the seedbed of good citizenship and true patriotism. Every school in this great Nation has a flag in the school yard. Or do they? And what if they don’t? Does it matter?

This was the case with the Special Needs Schools of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Ga.

The school, which is a nonprofit, private educational and therapeutic facility currently serving special needs children from ages 2 through young adult, has been in operation since March 1987 and is the only program of its kind in Gwinnett County.

Last year, we identified this school as one of the local community organizations we wanted to focus on as part of our HighHopes program. HighHopes is a program at HighGrove where employees make tax deductable donations through payroll deductions to support local community service initiatives.

When we met with the school, we were very impressed. They do so much for their students with very little, including used furniture and equipment. And they have big dreams for the future of growing their organization and helping greater numbers of children and young adults in the community.  

special needs schools gwinnett flagpole

Elinore Trotter, the Principal of the school, is very passionate about the organization’s mission. She is also very patriotic. She has a picture of a flag on her wall and mentioned that she has wanted a flagpole for the school yard for the past 26 years.

The HighHopes foundation decided that helping the school obtain a flagpole was something we could do that would benefit the students and the community for years to come

HighHopes donated the funds for the flagpole installation, which took place on Dec. 19, 2012. Then, in early January, HighGrove installed a concrete walkway and circular path up to the flagpole, ensuring it was wheelchair-accessible. Finally, on Jan. 7, a HighGrove team installed a mix of Dwarf Indian Hawthorne and Big Blue Liriope around the flagpole to complete its design.

special needs schools gwinnett flag dedication

But having a flagpole and flag comes with responsibility, mainly learning how to take proper care of this important American symbol. Through my work with the Boy Scouts of America, I have learned and taught the correct handling and folding of the American Flag, A.K.A. “Flag Etiquette” or “The Flag Code”.

This week, I taught some of the students at the Special Needs Schools of Gwinnett these tips. During the flag dedication ceremony at the school, these students raised the flag all on their own. Now, it’s their job to care for the flag and teach the next group of students this important responsibility.

There’s nothing like looking up and seeing “Old Glory” waving in the breeze.

People have asked as I work on these types of initiatives, “What do you want your legacy to be?” And I just say, “I will, most likely, never know what my legacy is because I hope it’s the experience and the example that these kids and any children we help through HighHopes take with them as they grow into adulthood and then hand down to their children and any children that they may work with. That will be my legacy.”

(pictured below, from left to right: Greg Nelson, Fleet Manager, Pam Watson, Office Manager, Jodi Arvidson, Accounting, and Benito Hernandez, Operations Manager.  In front is Elinore Trotter, principal of Special Needs Schools of Gwinnett)

special needs schools gwinnett flag dedication2 

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