Sumter students train to be 'connectors' for military families

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 2/2/18

Many might not think about it, but transitioning to a new city and school as a child of a military family can be difficult and filled with anxiety. The student can be adapting to a new culture, dress, attitudes, academic standards and numerous other …

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Sumter students train to be 'connectors' for military families

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Many might not think about it, but transitioning to a new city and school as a child of a military family can be difficult and filled with anxiety. The student can be adapting to a new culture, dress, attitudes, academic standards and numerous other logistics, according to Bill Lawson, a trainer with the Military Child Education Coalition.

Lawson and fellow coalition trainer Shannon George were in town this week, leading workshops for students and staff from eight schools in Sumter School District with the purpose of helping to ease that transition for incoming military students.

The past two school years, the district has secured $50,000 from the state Legislature to bring various training from the coalition to the schools, since Shaw Air Force Base and military families are such an integral part of the Sumter community, according to a district spokesperson.

This year's training includes four days of student-based workshops this week held at the district office, multiple parent training sessions, and a regular affiliate program to be housed at Crestwood High School this semester to work with military students and their parents to ensure their transition is smooth.

On Thursday, six students and two adult staff members from five different middle schools in the district were taking part in their second day of training for creating a Junior Student2Student organization at their schools. The student-led - and adult-supervised - organizations are designed to purposefully welcome and better integrate new military students into their schools and communities.

"These kids make connections with the new kids on all sorts of things in order to walk them through the initial challenges they will face," Lawson said.

The middle-schoolers took part in various exercises to help them form the organizations in their schools and topics focused on leadership development, team building and key values in a leader, among others.

Lawson and George said the coalition's programs were designed to help military kids, but actually help all kids in transition and new to schools.

"I tell the students: 'Their connectors,'" George said.