CHIEVRES, Belgium - SHAPE American Middle School and High School teachers ceded control of their classes to an army of local health and wellness experts April 29 during School Takeover Day, an event targeting military children.

The day is designed to help prepare students for life after graduation and coincides with the Month of the Military Child during April.

"We get to take a break from class for a day and learn about life," said Megan Campany, a senior at Shape American High School.

The students get exposure to a different type of education for the day, said event coordinator Chris Staker, health promotion officer for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux.

"This is the community coming together to directly impact the military child," said Staker. "We discussed age-appropriate topics with the students, ranging from critical job skills, the dangers of smoking, dating violence, self-defense and financial management to physical fitness and emotional well being."

Subject matter experts from the community replaced teachers for a half-day to mentor young adults in managing their personal well being through life.

The event started six years ago to consolidate all the health and wellness issues community organizers wanted to communicate to the students, Staker said. In the past, individual organizations would schedule training for single topics, with limited reach.

"The military observes many awareness campaigns during April, such as Month of the Military Child, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Drug and Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month... the list goes on," said Staker. "Every agency that had information to put out concerning these issues sponsored their own program and maybe 20-30 people would show up.

"By consolidating each of these programs into one-half day for the students, we've gone from maybe 50 to 100 contact hours to 1,500 to 1,600 contact hours with the students in a day. Everyone gets to expand their reach and expand their positive impact on the military children.

"Because the classes rotate three times during the morning, every presenter is going to see three different classrooms," he continued. "Each presenter is going to see 75 different kids during the morning, and I've got 24 presenters. We're talking some large numbers."

The students get real, targeted information, and have time to ask many questions, added Lisa Mays, SHAPE school nurse and event co-organizer.

"We do this because it's the Month of the Military Child, we are a military school and we are here because of the military," Mays said.

"Because of this, we of course have many agencies that focus on the military child, and this event allows everyone to come together and streamline their message directly to the child," she continued. "Rather than a usual half-day schedule of seven 20-minute periods, the Takeover Day sessions are three 50-minute blocks."

The Takeover Day sessions help students gain awareness about their future, said Kristen Larsen, who teaches 7th grade geography and high school German.

"(The students) get a spark about perhaps what they want to be when they grow up or other opportunities in the community that they weren't aware of - the youth center, sports, activities, theater, things like that," said Larsen.

Staker said the reviews he received from Takeover Day were positive, and he plans to keep the program going.

"We've gotten a lot of good feedback about the program," Staker said. "We've already been asked back for next year."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16