CHEEKTOWAGA (WKBW) Quotes from the 35th President and an acknowledgement of remembrance light up the sign at JFK High School in Cheektowaga. And as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy approaches, school pride and pride in its namesake is at an all time high.
Paintings and photos, busts and quotes fill the hallways of John F. Kennedy High in Cheektowaga, the first school in the nation to be named after the 35th President.
"Every school has something that makes it special. I think ours is very significant, and it's not just any President, it is Kennedy, and the significance of Kennedy in our country's history, so there's a great deal of pride historically," JFK High School President Kevin Kazmierczak said.
Kazmierczak tells the story of the President's trip to Buffalo in 1962, when he first learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis. To help lift his spirits, a local politician told Kennedy of the school being built and named after him.
"Legend has it that the motorcade actually drove past our school. There's no record of that anywhere but that's the legend as it is, and in response to that, Kennedy was so touched that he gave us the portrait of himself, and he has an inscription on there, dedicating it to us and thanking us for having the school named after him," the principal said.
Another tidbit of Kennedy connection to the school is quite ironic. A display case holds a small piece of paper, a dance invitation, found behind a radiator in the school.
"The first dance that was planned at the school was to happen on November 22nd 1963. And as everybody knows that was the date that Kennedy was assassinated. The dance never took place, but we have this little slip of paper showing that the school's first dance, the namesake was assassinated on that day," Kazmierczak added.
With the upcoming anniversary, classrooms are also full of lessons about the schools namesake.
"We feel like we have a personal connection to history here," JFK government teacher Colin Brinson said.
"I think it makes me proud to be here, because of all the things he's done. We go to this school, just makes us proud to be here I guess," JFK senior Anna Michalski added.
A special tribute is planned at the school on Friday's anniversary.