Youngsters send Valentine cards to family members

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KIRTLAND — Over the past week, the 109 students at the Kirtland Early Childhood Center have been decorating cards to mail to family members for Valentine's Day.

Today, the first set of students walked from the center to the nearby post office to mail messages of love, learning about the U.S. Postal Service in the process.

Among the group were 14 students in preschool teacher Helen Weeks' class. Weeks said her students completed cards that stated, "I know my family loves me because …" below a large heart.

Because students who attend the center are between 3 and 5 years old, Weeks helped write down the reasons they think their families love them.

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"A lot of them were, 'because they hug me' and 'because they cook for me.' One of them said something about 'they got me an ocean water from Sonic,'" she said with a chuckle.

After arriving at the post office, the students took turns using the mail drop in the lobby to send their letters.

Brady Becksted, 5, included his footprint on the Valentine he sent to his parents. When asked why he decided to send the card to them, Becksted said, "because I like them. They buy food."

After the letters were mailed, Kirtland Postmaster Jesse Kartchner led the students to the back area of the post office, where they learned how mail is processed, sorted and delivered.

Kartchner has served as postmaster for more than 25 years, and he said students from the center visit the post office each year before Valentine's Day. He said the trip introduces them to the Postal Service, and they have fun post marking their letters and riding the lift that helps carriers load mail.

Damarious Silva was selected to place his letter in his parents' mailbox during the tour. After completing the delivery, the 5-year-old gave a high five to his father, Juan Silva, who was a chaperone on the trip.

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Juan Silva said since the letter is in the mailbox, he looked forward to checking the mail after school.

Jake Warner walked to the post office with his son, Chandan Warner, 5.

"It was cool. We got to go in the back and see how the mail it sorted," Jake Warner said after returning to the school.

Candace Keams-Benally is the center's interim principal and the pre-kindergarten administrator for the Central Consolidated School District. She said the project is a fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day and teaches students about individuals who help the community, such as postal employees.

"The experience itself ties into writing, preschool literacy (and) social interaction," she said adding the cards carry sentimental value for families.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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