Today’s blog post is by Communities In Schools of the Midlands, S.C., Site Coordinator Melissa Dunn.
While most children associate the Fourth of July with barbeques, fireworks and vacations, many students served by Communities In Schools of the Midlands, S.C., experience a very different reality. More than 25 percent of the students I serve at Muller Road Middle School have a parent employed by the military. These children face an array of unique challenges. As a Communities In Schools site coordinator, it is my job to surround these students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
Students who have one or more parents in the military face barriers to success such as high family mobility, family separation and constant transition into new communities and schools. These problems can cause poor academic performance, truancy, a lack of motivation, aggressive behavior, misbehavior or emotional problems. All of that makes it difficult for students to maintain the ABC’s of success: attendance, behavior and course achievement.
So it comes as no surprise when children living in such circumstances face emotional turbulence. They are constantly moving, unable to establish friendships, and changing social and geographical environments. All of this is tough for a young person to deal with. Being separated from a parent and not knowing when, or if, they will come home is difficult for anyone of any age to bear. Many of the military children I have worked with try to cope by using what I like to call, “the bottling it up approach.” They hold everything, all their stresses and fears, really tight inside. They don’t know how to best express their emotions in a healthy manner and don’t know where to turn.
It is crucial as a site coordinator to identify these students, talk to their families and assist them with as smooth of a transition into the community as possible.
Communities In Schools of the Midlands site coordinators have the ability to provide services for military students and their families. By attending local training classes provided by the Military Child Education Coalition, a national nonprofit whose mission is to ensure inclusive, quality educational experiences for all military children, we are provided with the knowledge and connections to create sustainable partnerships with local military organizations and focus on providing services designed to meet the special needs of military families.
For example, most military bases have a community liaison to help families transition into the school and neighborhood where they have moved. As a site coordinator, having a relationship with this liaison helps both families and students in the transitioning process. The liaison is able to notify site coordinators when new students are coming, and we are able to welcome the students and provide them with whatever they need to thrive; including academic support, a mentor and counseling.
With 1.5 million students in the United States having at least one parent in the military, it is imperative that we educate ourselves and connect our schools with services and programs designed to help these youths overcome their unique barriers. Just as the military protects our nation, we, as Communities In Schools site coordinators, must protect their children and families.
Happy Fourth of July to all, and especially to those with family in the military!