By Eve A. Baker, Marine Corps Base Quantico
Marine Corps Base Quantico --
School district staff, administrators, teachers, counselors, social workers and nurses from Marine Corps Base Quantico and Prince William, Stafford, Fauquier and Spotsylvania counties' schools met at The Clubs at Quantico to discuss how best to help military children, April 16. This event was the sixth annual education symposium, and it was organized by Quantico School Liaison Officers Tammy Smith and Liz Barnes.
Base Commander Col. David Maxwell, a father of two, made opening remarks to the attendees about the importance of supporting military children through the challenges they face, particularly as they change schools.
Following Maxwell, Zoe Trautman, a board member of the Military Child Education Coalition, spoke about the parent and teacher perspective of working with and raising military children. The goal of the MCEC is to ease the transition between schools for military children. In addition to her professional expertise, Trautman brought a personal perspective to her talk, as she is the spouse of a 37-year Marine veteran and the mother of two children who attended seven different schools throughout their family’s many moves.
Trautman emphasized the importance of stability and routines in both home and school life and said that reestablishing familiar routines in each new home can help children adapt more quickly. She also highlighted unique strengths of military children, such as their tendency to be more resilient, due to the numerous stresses they face and overcome, as well as their wider worldview and greater tolerance for difference in others, based on their having lived in different regions of the country and the world.
Marlena Castillo, a commercial property manager and former military child, spoke about her mobile childhood from an adult perspective. She elicited chuckles from the room when she recounted being asked where she was from and thinking about what to say, an experience that nearly all military families can relate to. Castillo said being involved in the moves and doing activities that interested her helped her cope with the many transitions.
The final portion of the symposium consisted of a question-and-answer session with a panel of high school students. Regan, age 16, daughter of an Army officer, said she has already attended eight schools. She said activities like volleyball and writing have helped her cope with the stress of the moves. Starting a new school as a sophomore has by far been the biggest challenge for her, as she felt that everyone had already established friendships in their freshman year of school, though volleyball did introduce her to some new friends. She is very happy to be returning to the high school she attended as a freshman next year, as she said that school’s teachers were the most understanding and supportive, and she is looking forward to seeing her old friends.
Stephen, age 17, the son of a Marine, said civilian schools and counselors don’t always understand military children, in terms of why they move so much or need to be absent or why they may be under stress. He said the situation is not perfect at schools aboard military bases either though, because regulations are stricter; he said it is very hard to fundraise for school activities aboard base.
All the students emphasized that making friends and having a caring coach or teacher — people who understand their situation — make the transitions easier.