Being "the new kid" is never easy, but imagine being "the new kid" over, and sometimes over again.
Military children are forced into that position by the nature of their parents' work consistently, but some tenacious students at Old Mill High School in Millersville, Md., have gone above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to include "the new kid," and were recently honored for it.
At the end of June, students from Old Mill got to travel to Grapevine, Texas for the National Training Seminar of the Military Child Education Coalition, a non-profit, worldwide organization dedicated to "ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition." MCEC is contracted by the Navy to provide "Student-to-Student" (S2S) training for schools, their staff and students.
They got to meet privately with the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and were given one of his coins. They also met keynote speaker Roger Staubach, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Famer (and former Navy quarterback). The Old Mill students presented Staubach with a school football jersey with a "Beat Army" button on it.
"It got a great laugh from the audience," said Carol Mohsberg, school liaison officer for Naval Support Activity Annapolis.
In December, representatives from Old Mill (two staff, two students, and Mohsberg) had an opportunity to train in the nuances of providing S2S services to transitioning military children. S2S programs, which are run by students and only supervised by a teacher, counselor or staff member, emphasize making a military child feel at home in a place that may be completely foreign to them from day one.
"Being the new kid at school is very hard," said Mohsberg. "S2S is intended to help make it a little bit easier."
Similar to military sponsorship that prepares service members for transition to a new post, S2S spends a lot of effort on being inclusive to the incoming student: making sure they have somewhere to sit at lunch, know their way around the school, and that they are included in the "society" of a new school.
"By making these connections, you're walking into the crowd instead of saying 'Oh, how am I ever going to fit into the crowd," said Mohsberg.
According to Mohsberg, after being trained in December the student representatives from Old Mill came back home "guns blazing": they had increased their ranks tenfold, and had redefined what really could even be expected of an S2S program. They had reached out so much that in one instance they had decided that they must have a speaker of Urdu (national language of Pakistan and Northern India) readily available, just in case someone had transitioned in that spoke it.
"Can you imagine being that kid," said Mohsberg. "Coming to a new school where you expect to feel like an outsider and yet someone comes up and says 'Hi, welcome to Old Mill' in Urdu?"
It is for this effort that was truly above and beyond the call of duty of an S2S program that they were selected to attend the event at the end of June, out of nearly 300 schools worldwide, in order to represent the Navy. With these accolades, it seems unlikely that the S2S program will have lost too much steam over the summer vacation, and there is always hope that more military families will take advantage of such resources available to them.
"For any of Navy families who have school-aged children, always be thinking who your school liaison is," said Mohsberg. "They have the access to programs like S2S; if I'm a Navy parent, I want to know who to reach out to help my kid make a better transition."
For more information on the Military Child Education Coalition and the S2S program, visit their website at www.militarychild.org