PSD Students Present Custom‐Made Guitars to Local Vets

Anibal Valentin describes him­self as “not very musi­cal­ly inclined at all.”

After a fel­low mil­i­tary vet­er­an at Montgomery County Community College sug­gest­ed he take a gui­tar class there, though, he did and fell in love with it, he said.

Strumming gui­tar was ther­a­peu­tic,” Valentin said. “It’s sort of a dis­trac­tion at times when you need it.”

Now that he has a gui­tar donat­ed by a team of Pennridge High School stu­dents who made it for their entry into the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Competition, he’ll be able to learn more gui­tar, as well as encour­age his children’s inter­est in musi­cal edu­ca­tion, he said.

Valentin, a Warrington area res­i­dent who served in the mil­i­tary from 2008 to 2014, includ­ing com­bat oper­a­tions in the Middle East, received an acoustic gui­tar at the June 11 pre­sen­ta­tion. Fellow vet­er­an Jon Bittner, of Harleysville, who served in the mil­i­tary from 2005 to 2013, includ­ing hav­ing served in Afghanistan, received an elec­tric gui­tar.

For me, music has always played a part in my life,” Bittner said.

He said he taught him­self to play gui­tar.

This means a lot to me. Music is ther­a­py for me, and over the last cou­ple years, I unfor­tu­nate­ly had to sell all my gui­tars and I haven’t had any­thing to play in quite a few years, so this means a lot to me,” Bittner said.

students presenting guitars to local veterans.The gui­tars were made for the statewide Governor’s STEM Competition, said tech ed teacher Matt Peitzman, who teach­es a gui­tar build­ing class and who co‐advised the team with Deb Cotner‐Davis, the district’s super­vi­sor of sci­ence and STEM edu­ca­tion for grades six through 12.

The chal­lenge was to help Pennsylvanians, so they chose to research how music ther­a­py and play­ing a gui­tar has a pos­i­tive effect on vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing from PTSD [post trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der],” Peitzman said.

The team mem­bers were ninth‐graders Julian Arteaga and Sophia Goodson, 10th‐grader Ella Slater and 12th‐graders Zach Detweiler and Patrick Gannon.

They used native Pennsylvania woods and Pennsylvania com­pa­nies to make the gui­tars,” Peitzman said.

The stu­dents put in a total of 263.26 hours of after‐school time in prepar­ing for first the region­al con­test, then the state one, accord­ing to infor­ma­tion at the pre­sen­ta­tion.

Besides build­ing the gui­tars, they also need­ed to do a pre­sen­ta­tion, a 20‐minute pre­sen­ta­tion as well,” Cotner‐Davis said.

After win­ning the region­al con­test, the team was the People’s Choice Award and Most Original Idea win­ner at the state lev­el.

We had a lot of won­der­ful com­pli­ments about the project and what the stu­dents had done,” Cotner‐Davis said.

Not hav­ing won the top state prize isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a bad thing, Valentin said.

I think failure’s a great tool. We love to be opti­mistic and to see the good in every­thing, but pes­simism can be a friend if used spar­ing­ly and wise­ly,” he said.

Tripping and falling can lead to more resilien­cy if the per­son gets back up and back in the fight, he said.

You all may not have got­ten the grand prize,” he said, “but you’re pre­cious in our hearts.”

This is going to be with us for the rest of our lives,” Bittner said.

What you guys did so self­less­ly,” he said, “it means a lot.”