By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
A row of 14 excited second- and third-graders stood in line with right hands raised Thursday morning at Clarke Elementary School's library.
Facing Postmaster Jeff Davis, the youngsters held back their enthusiasm and solemnly repeated after him an oath to honor their new appointments as postal workers for the Clarke Comanche Postal System.
Davis, who oversees Killeen, Harker Heights and Fort Hood post offices, impressed upon the eager students that they have serious responsibilities to uphold when working as postal employees. Then, to their pleasure, he handed out postal worker heroes pins for them to proudly wear as they go about their duties in the interschool postal system.
Reading teacher Gwen James supervises the Clarke Comanche Postal System, and her 14 student workers were selected from 97 submitted applications.
"I told the kids I was looking for two things: that they would listen, and the other being that they could follow directions," she said.
James was able to implement the program after receiving a $3,000 Killeen Independent School District Education Foundation grant last fall.
Though she is at the forefront of the project, James said the whole school has pitched in to use it as a teaching tool. For example, art classes will be designing stamps, and students will learn how to label and print out envelopes from computers in their technology class.
"This is awesome because we're teaching the kids responsibility, life skills and we're teaching them the postal system. It's amazing how they take it so seriously," Clarke Principal Nabil Diab said.
All Clarke students from pre-kindergarten through third grade can use the system, as well as staff, teachers and parents, James said.
A normal-size metal mailbox emblazoned with the Clarke Comanche Postal System name and logo stands in the school's lobby, giving everyone an opportunity to drop in their mail.
The sworn-in students hold various positions with different duties, including those of facer, canceller, nixie clerk, sorter and carrier.
James has established a route throughout the school with street numbers (classroom numbers), street names (name of that room's teacher), city (grade, such as kindergarten), state (Texas) and a ZIP code (76 followed by the age of that grade repeated three times, such as 76555 for kindergarten).
"This is their route, which I think is so cute, because it pretty much looks like a regular route," said Cassie Walker, who is a United States Postal Service role carrier associate. Her 8-year-old son, Jonathan Walker, is a canceller in the school's system.
Helen Burrell, mother of second-grader Ella Burrell, is impressed with the program because her Ella will learn what process the letters she sends to her Iraq-stationed father go through.
"She's always making out her letters to her dad and having me send it. Now she gets to see what happens after it mails," said the mother.
Ella smiled broadly and said she was "so, so, so happy" to be a canceller for the micro-postal system. "And look, I got a cool badge," she said, pointing to the postal heroes pin on her dress.
Letters will be processed and delivered throughout Clarke Elementary between 8:20 and 8:50 a.m., which is what James called "success time" at the school. While other students undergo special tutoring or enrichment programs at that time, the postal workers will get their work done and not have to miss regular class time, James said.
The grant she earned from the Education Foundation was provided by the family of Tolly and Florence Moore, said the foundation's director, Dawn Parnell.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at email@example.com