Houston schools reach out to military students with deployed parents

Houston schools reach out to military students with deployed parents

wcrenshaw@macon.comApril 23, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The Houston County school system wants military children who have deployed family members to know they are not alone.

At Hilltop Elementary School on Wednesday, a dozen students with deployed parents gathered in the cafeteria for an event intended to help them cope. It was led by two Robins Air Force Base airmen from the Airmen and Family Readiness Center.

The program is held for the students every couple of months, said Wanda Stafford, the school counselor.

“It’s to let the kids feel that connection with others who are going through the same thing,” she said.

It began with the airmen asking each of the students to say which parent was deployed and the location. While many people may think of Afghanistan when it comes to military deployments, it actually ranged from Louisiana to Korea.

Tech Sgt. Ronald Megginson asked the students to draw pictures of places they would like to go with their parents when the deployed member returns. One drew Six Flags amusement park, while another drew Outback Steakhouse and another drew Longhorn Steakhouse.

Megginson also gave each a note with his phone number on it if they ever wanted to talk. He said the meeting has a positive impact on the students.

“They get to look across the room and see that they are not the only one who is dealing with it,” he said. “They also see that the base has resources available for them.”

He added that the school system doesn’t necessarily know when a child has a parent deployed, so military parents are encouraged communicate that.

“It happens a lot, especially with the Guard kids, and often they are the ones that need it the most because they are not used to it,” he said.

They have the meeting at other elementary schools in Houston, working with the school counselor to set it up. Megginson said the school system does a good job addressing the special challenges of all military children, not just those with deployed parents.

“They go above and beyond, as long as the parents are identifying their kids to the school and letting them know they are a military family,” he said.

Several events are going on in April in recognition of Month of the Military Child, according to a school district release. The school system has about 2,500 students with active-duty military parents and 7,500 affiliated with the military. Affiliation includes parents in the Guard and Reserve, as well as military retirees.

As a part of the recognition of Month of the Military Child, Hilltop Elementary on Wednesday also presented certificates of appreciation, snacks and dog tags to all military students.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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