In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tunkhannock Area Middle School hosted its annual ‘American Hero Day’ on Friday, with students reading essays for their personal hometown heroes.

The ceremony, which was held in the middle school auditorium, featured readings from 18 eighth grade students as well as performances from both the eighth grade band and chorus.

The band opened up with renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” and the “Armed Forces Salute,” during which veterans in attendance were honored.

Principal James Timmons introduced the speakers by offering his own interpretation of what the event stands for.

“We all have to respect and care for each other – have to look out for each other,” Timmons said. “We become hometown heroes through service to one another and service to our community.”

Students then came forward and recited essays about who in their lives made an impact in a profound way.

Nearly every individual honored, whether they were a parent or teacher, was present to receive a copy of the essay as an honor before the audience.

Angela Colbenson paid homage to her kindergarten teacher Marie Vieczorek, whose guidance and friendship through the years has served to inspire Colbenson in her day-to-day life.

Vieczorek, despite being diagnosed with a disease, continues to exhibit strength that motivates Colbenson.

“Even through her battle with muscular dystrophy, she still excels at being a mother and a teacher,” Colbenson said. “Her love for children inspired my love for children and teaching.”

Other students spoke about immediate family members who have served as role models to them throughout their lives, simply by example.

Ashli Quick chose her father Floyd ‘Boomer’ Quick as her personal hero, using an anecdote of him going out of his way to assist an elderly man as an example of his character.

The man, who had been wandering on the side of the roadway, was later revealed to have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and indeed in need of assistance.

Another student, Ben Tidball, spoke of his mother, Elizabeth Tidball, and her devotion to her family and their pursuits, as well as her devotion to spiritualism.

“She always inspires me to improve my faith and guide others,” Tidball said.

Although most students chose family members who were older, Sadie Trochak chose her cousin Jeff Krishak, a senior at Penn State University, as one of her biggest influences.

Krishak is generously volunteering in a high-responsibility position for PSU’s annual dance marathon, ‘THON.’

“I chose my cousin because of his determination – he works for what he wants,” Trochak said. “He has always been someone I wanted to be like. He inspires me in so many ways.”

Others honored people in their lives who have had to overcome life-threatening illnesses, highlighting their strength as inspiration.

Jennifer Ash, the mother of student Cassidy Cash, battled through breast cancer.

“On February 13, she was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ash said. “It broke my heart into a million pieces.”

A couple of students even chose their coaches as their heroes, like Sara Fetter, who said her swim coach Barb Hoskins is always a source of comfort to her.

“She is kind and caring; loyal and honest,” Fetter said. “She will always cheer you up when you’re feeling sad.”

A break halfway through presentations spotlighted a student-made video spoofing the TV game show “Wipeout,” where contestants compete in obstacle courses.

To close out the show, the eighth grade select chorus performed “You are our Heroes.”

Also presenting Friday were:

Alexandria Glaush, honoring Tim Mislevy; Mary Zeunen, honoring Linda Niemec; Emma Rushworth, honoring Colleen Gaughan; Elaine Lance, honoring Julia Lance; Gianna Scotti, honoring Antoinette Scotti; Hannah Chesner, honoring Jennifer Chesner; Kailey Davies, honoring Laura Munley; Jessica Dymond, honoring Jan Henning; Ken Filer, honoring John Filer, Sr.; Jessica Ell, honoring Jane Ell; Bailee Jones, honoring Joanne Jones; and Adam Martin, honoring Elwood Martin.