This summer I had the opportunity to attend National Training Conference for Military Child Education Coalition here in DC. There I learned about two amazing programs that are reaching out to Military parents and children all over, while bridging the gap between the civilian and military worlds. The programs are also creating powerful stories that affect not only those that are military connected, but the teenagers who aren’t military connected. Many of the stories brought tears to the eyes of students that were sharing them, as well as all of us in the audience. The Student 2 Student, and Parent 2 Parent programs are changing lives in schools across the country.
Student to Student is an initiative created by MCEC that provides assistance and peer support to students transitioning into a school. While advisors work with the students, it is primarily a student led program. It encourages relationships between the student leaders and the student population they come into contact with. The goal of the program is to provide students with the best transition experience possible. As military families well know, transitioning can be really hard for kids, especially if they do it often. The S2S program is designed make that less difficult.
When military kids go to a new school the program identifies three things that are most important to them: 1) How do I find my way around, 2) Who will I meet and 3) What are the academic requirements of the school. An immediate welcome into the fold of the new school community is important to success in a new environment.
At the conference I attended we heard from several students that had participated in this program. Almost every single one of them was a non-military connected child. This fact was absolutely astounding to me. Here, the gap was being bridged! These teens were seeing the immediate effects of what a military move can do a child. Many of the students spoke of a strength and resiliency they noticed in these military kids. They also expressed an emotional reaction to the direct effect they were having in this program. The program was so successful that the Junior Student to Student program was started, which assist students in Junior High. MCEC didn’t stop with helping the students. They created the Parent to Parent program as well.
The MCEC, Parent to Parent program empowers parents to be their child’s strongest advocate on educational and social issues through MCEC parent workshops. Currently there are 20 teams in the US and 4 in Europe. The Parent to Parent program is mostly funded by The Department of the Army; but MCEC realizes that military-connected families are everywhere. They have also developed a National Guard/Reserve program, as well as one called Parent to Parent Surge. These two programs seek to provide unique resources to families everywhere.
The National Guard/Reserve programs are provided at no cost to any branch, at any location. The Surge program is perfect for the unit that doesn’t already have their own Parent to Parent team, or another branch besides the Army. The Army provides a day’s worth of training for free for Army units, and for a small for other branches.
For me, advocating for my child and providing him with the best chance at success within the unique circumstances of our life is very important to me. In one of my previous articles I talked about my son’s first year in school, and how the school was basically unaware of their military population. I think they understood they probably had some but there weren’t any programs in place or resources for teachers or counselors. MCEC is working tireless to change this, and as a parent to a military-connected child I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only to they have programs like S2S and Parent to Parent, but they are an endless resource, providing books, training and websites to help you advocate for your child and provide them with the best footing to take on all the challenges that come with being a military child.
To find out more about these programs, how to get involved, find an S2S or Parent to Parent near your installation, or get trained to join the team, visit the ‘Parents and Students’ section of Military Child Education Coalition’s website.