BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Players on the winter varsity sports teams at Shenendehowa High School may be a little hard to identify at times this year . . . all will be wearing the number 6 on their warm-up shirts.
Shenendehowa always puts on an annual Veterans Day event. It’s a longstanding tradition and different person takes the lead every year.
This year, that person was Craig Chandler, a class assistant principal at the high school, and he wanted to do something that would have a longer-lasting impact than a one-day, one-hour ceremony, so he reached out to Got Your 6 — a national nonprofit that works primarily with filmmakers and media to change the perception of veterans in our communities.
“I reached out to them with my idea and we worked together and it evolved as we went along,” Chandler said. “Basically at this point we’ve partnered with them, meaning that we are benefiting from the use of some of their research and resources in some of our classes here at Shen and then we are giving back to them through some fundraising events that we are going to do throughout the winter through our athletics department.”
Honoring their service
On Veterans Day, the school had some local vets as well as the local American Legion post in attendance, music was performed by the high school wind ensemble, and the entire Got Your 6 leadership team from Washington D.C. was there as well to help to kick off the partnership.
They talked about who they are, what they do and why it’s important.
“We are their first partnership nationwide,” Chandler said. “They were very excited about partnering with a high school.”
Chandler wanted to instill the importance of remembering veterans more than just on the national holiday. “I think every year we try to recognize our veterans, but I think — most of us would agree — that’s not something we should just do on Veterans Day.
“To give our students a more accurate depiction of who veterans are is important.”
Chandler didn’t know much about Got Your 6 at first except that it had a catchy slogan. “Got Your 6 means I’ve got your back and when I was thinking about how we could tie that into a high school community, it’s an important concept in a number of different ways when we talk about the social issues that kids have to face today and the bullying concerns; having someone’s back is significant,” Chandler said.
“When we talk about the athletics portion of what we are doing, the concept of teamwork and looking our for each other is there as well. I thought maybe it would be a nice tie-in and so far it’s been great.”
Got Your 6 recently completed what is called the Veterans Civic Health Index, which is a summary of research findings of veterans in their communities and it points out things that veterans are more likely to do.
“They are trying to break down that stereotype of the broken hero, where the perception is that all veterans are suffering from PTSD or struggle with homelessness and addiction and the reality is very much different from that,” Chandler said. “The key point of their message is that veterans are real people and that their veteran status is only one aspect of who they are and that in most cases, the skills that they’ve learned and the experiences that they’ve had, have helped them become better people and better members of our community.”
At the Veterans Day event, Shenendehowa unveiled new warm-up jerseys that the winter sports teams at the varsity level will feature throughout the winter; every player on the team is number 6, just to bring awareness to the idea and the Got Your 6 campaign.
Each team — boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling — are going to host a Got Your 6 event, which will center around a game or a match, and a portion of all the proceeds will go back to Got Your 6.
One has already been scheduled. On Dec. 22, the boys basketball team will have a home game against CBA. “We are anticipating that will be a very big game,” Chandler said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase that partnership on that day.
“Our hope is to sell out the entire student side of the bleachers and have at least 600 students and every student who comes is going to receive a T-shirt that has our own spin on a Got Your 6 logo on the front.”