Poppy seed project

Seniors fundraise for American Legion


Ellie Kim

Seniors Angelina Giustra and Jennifer Pulsiano donated money they raised from their public policy project to the American Legion. A poppy sale would have been held in front of the school, but due to the pandemic, the fundraising plan was altered.

Ellie Kim and Sarah Buttikofer

Government and history teacher Jeff Jasper said that it’s important for us to always remember the sacrifices that veterans have made.

“As we get further and further away from knowing veterans, we should never forget what veterans have done, and who they are,” said Jasper, who served for two years as a combat infantry airborne officer.

Seniors Angelina Giustra and Jennifer Pulsiano presented a $670 donation on June 1 in front of Pascack Valley to the American Legion that they raised from their public policy project in Jasper’s government class. The American Legion is a social service organization of military veterans, according to its website. 

“American Legion was founded in 1918 right at the end of WWI in France by American soldiers waiting to come home,” said Doug Frank, a veteran who served for 15 years and accepted the donation on behalf of the American Legion. “We have youth programs, we go to the schools during Memorial and Veterans Day, and we raise money to take care of families of veterans in need.” 

The money raised by Giustra and Pulsiano will be donated to the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home. The American Legion will match the money raised and add it to the donation. Frank said the veterans home in Paramus is the “most devastated nursing home in the state in terms of the COVID-19 virus.” 

A poppy sale at the school would have been held, but due to social distance precautions, the fundraising was altered. Frank said that it is “extremely gratifying” for the veterans to visit. 

“This year, we couldn’t do [a poppy sale in front of the school] because of the virus, so we decided to do fundraising online,” Pulsiano said.

Most of the fundraising was done through Venmo because the girls thought it was the best approach due to the situation.

Pascack Valley alumni Cole Donnellan and Megan Viganola started the poppy sale last year. This year, they came back to help Giustra and Pulsiano fundraise. The team posted “bingo boards” on their social media accounts asking for donations of any amount on Venmo. Pulsiano and Giustra also had Interim Principal John Puccio send an email to the school and brought awareness to the event on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram.

“We decided either way we wanted to raise money, and a lot of teenagers now know how to use Venmo, so we thought that was the best approach for it,” Giustra said. “We set up a Venmo donation and had everyone Venmo Jen.”

Jasper suggested for Giustra and Pulsiano to focus their public policy project around the poppy sale.

“The whole idea is trying to find a societal problem and try to make it better, and then figure out a public policy that would make the world a better place,” Jasper said, “That’s really what the bottom line is — how do we become better people by doing good acts? Random acts of kindness is really what it comes down to.”

Giustra and Pulsiano began researching a topic for their public policy project in February, but Jasper said that the pandemic “threw everything into a little bit of disarray.”

“The way public policy is done is not like you can just go to the book and say there’s the plan and there’s the answer,” Jasper said. “It wasn’t quite that simple.”

A survey was sent out before Pulsiano and Giustra started the project, and they were surprised to find out that many did not know the difference between Memorial Day and Labor Day or what the poppy seeds stood for.

“We asked everyone if they say ‘Thank you for your service’ when they see veterans, and most of them said no,” Pulsiano. “We’re raising awareness of that.”

Pulsiano said the poppy seeds stand for the sacrifice of veterans going to war.

“After the battles of World War 1, which was just over a hundred years ago, the ground was greatly disrupted from all of the battling in France and they buried a lot of our soldiers over there and poppies, wherever the soil is disturbed, the poppies would grow by themselves,” Frank said.

Jasper said the whole idea was not about raising money, but the real meaning is about raising the awareness and consciousness of what veterans are and what Memorial Day is all about, and what the poppy drive is.

“We hope to just raise awareness about veterans because I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that veterans are in need of help,” Pulsiano said. “We hope to raise awareness for this and just basically educate people on the struggles after going to war.”