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Salute to Service Story Time offers much-needed arts programming for military families

ASU's Salute to Service logo.
November 10, 2020

ASU’s 2020 Salute to Service kicked off on Nov. 5, and a new arts series that honors military families is one of the many offerings for veterans and their families this year.

Salute to Service Story Time is a community engagement project created by Arizona State University senior Anna Cortabitarte to serve veteran and active-duty military families. Cortabitarte, whose grandfather was a veteran, wanted to create the series because of what she saw as a lack of arts and culture programming targeted at military families. She was also inspired by the television program "Reading Rainbow."

“I think for so many kids growing up who have a parent who’s either a veteran or active duty, they might never have another kid in school with them in a class or an extracurricular that is going through that same experience,” Cortabitarte said. “I’ve seen kids in my own family struggle with it because they're going through something kind of alone. So, I wanted to create a program that connects these families and gives them a space to talk about these things.”

The series consists of eight prerecorded reading sessions available now on ASU's Salute to Service site that feature children’s books with veteran themes or storybooks written by veterans.

The Salute to Service Story Time readers are all members of the ASU community, such as Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage. Cortabitarte said Roggensack was a “great participant,” as her father is a veteran and she could share stories about growing up on military bases.

Cortabitarte said that, while currently done virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, she hopes for the Story Time series to one day be an in-person event.

“Our goal ... is to also have people who might not know what it’s like to grow up and have a parent who’s deployed or grew up in a veteran household to be able to kind of understand that experience,” Cortabitarte said. “You’re definitely never going to know what it’s like to live it, but to have a better understanding of kind of what that is and strengthen the community as a whole.”

Salute to Service Story Time readers

  • Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage, vice president of cultural affairs.
  • Charli Turner, ASU women's basketball coach.
  • Shawn Banzhaf, senior military advocate at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.
  • Brett Hunt, executive director of ASU Public Service Academy.
  • Leticia Vidana, school certifying official at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.
  • Christine Wilkinson, senior vice president and secretary of ASU.
  • Nancy Dallett, associate director, Office of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement.
  • Jennie Blair, assistant director of Enrollment Services for the Downtown Phoenix campus.

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