Mr. Benton teaching a lesson to SHS students

Superintendent Kyle Repucci is pleased to share that R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center students will spend the 2022-2023 school year assisting an 88-year-old veteran with maintaining the City of Rochester’s World War II Honor Roll and the 1,663 names it recognizes.

Korean War veteran Al Benton, 88, stands with students in the Manufacturing and Millwork pathway at the R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center, after Mr. Benton presented students with a history lesson on the City of Rochester’s World War II Honor Roll, which students will help maintain this year. (Courtesy Rochester Public Schools)

Students in the Manufacturing and Millwork pathway will collaborate with the Rochester Veteran’s Council, the Office of Mayor Paul Callaghan, and Korean War veteran Al Benton to renovate and maintain the Honor Roll, while also building skills.

Mr. Benton, a member of the Rochester Veteran’s Council, has worked since 2001 to maintain the World War II Honor Roll, located outside City Hall, with help from other members of the Veteran’s Council, but this year more help is on the way.

Under the guidance of Manufacturing and Millwork Instructor Jason Daggett, students began their year-long project by meeting with Mr. Benton for a history lesson.

Benton taught students about the memorial as a first step, and told them the memorial was built in 1943 as a result of a vote by the Rochester City Council.

The memorial contains the names of 1,663 Rochester residents who served in World War II, including the names of 71 who lost their lives in the war.

Benton said he began working to maintain the memorial around 2001, because it had fallen into disrepair, and because his sister is among the Rochester residents whose service is memorialized.

The Honor Roll was not meant to be permanent, and was built largely from wood, which has made it a challenge to maintain.

Now those efforts will include Manufacturing and Millwork students, who will learn new skills and then use them to contribute to the community’s memory. Daggett said the project will benefit students just as it benefits the Honor Roll.

“This project will cover many of our program competencies and skills. The students will be planning out the project from start to finish, managing timeframes and processes, as well as compiling a list of materials and tools required to complete the job,” Daggett said. “Most importantly the students will learn how to work together and collaborate. These are the core skills which are so important to all employers and in all career paths today.”

Daggett said the project will also help students experience the self-satisfaction of giving back to the community, and he hopes that feeling is contagious.

“I hope that the feeling of satisfaction and pride that they will gain from this project will encourage them to continue to help the community in their future,” Daggett said.

Korean War veteran Al Benton teaches students about the history of the City of Rochester’s World War II Honor Roll. At right is Jeanne Grover, founder and president of Vouchers for Veterans. (Photo Courtesy Rochester Public Schools)

Students were excited following their meeting with Mr. Benton, and showed him how to use a flight simulator at the school. 

The students will now assist with renovating some of the wood on the Honor Roll, and give it a new coat of paint.

Daggett said students left their first meeting with Mr. Benton impressed, and eager to work. 

“Mr. Benton is very passionate about preserving the monument, and the students realized how important the monument is to our community and also our veterans,” Daggett said. “I think they are very excited to be a part of this moving forward, and many of the students shook Mr. Benton’s hand and thanked him for all he has done, and for his service to our country.”

“I saw this as an opportunity for students in the mill works program to make a positive impact in their community by helping the Veterans Council repair the War World II Memorial in front of City Hall,” said Mayor Paul Callaghan. “It’s exciting to see their commitment to this project and to learn about their strengthening relationship with our Veterans.”

Jeanne Grover, founder and president of Vouchers for Veterans, said she doesn’t remember who said it, but that she treasures a quote she heard once: “We may not know them all, but we owe them all.”

A student helps give Mr. Benton a spin in a flight simulator at the R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center following a history lesson. (Courtesy Rochester Public Schools)

“I think that’s such a true statement, and it’s why I’ve dedicated my life to the veterans,” said Grover, who helped setup this project and connect schools with Mr. Benton. “They’re so deserving of recognition and so selfless. Veterans are the only people in this world who will write a blank check for up to and including their life, for a total stranger, so any recognition we can give them to keep them in the forefront is very needed, especially for today’s youth.”

“This project combines a great community service and an important history lesson, with a valuable opportunity for students to learn new skills and test their existing skills,” said Director Halligan-Foley. “This project is a win win for both our school and the community, and I could not be more proud of our students.”

Benton believes the Honor Roll can be a permanent Rochester fixture if it receives the proper care and attention.

“It will always be there, as long as someone takes care of it,” Benton said.