FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Members of Fort McPherson and more than 20 schools from surrounding communities gathered Sept. 11 at The Commons at Fort McPherson for the installation's final Educators' Appreciation Reception.

The theme of this year's event was "Bridging the Gap to Success" and focused on thanking the various individuals involved in the education field - administrative personnel, superintendants, counselors, government representatives, tutors, teachers and volunteers - for their contributions toward helping military children at Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem succeed.

The partnership between the Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem and their surrounding community schools goes back 20 years, said Col. Deborah Grays, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) commander, and has been "a great partnership."

"It's hard for kids to adapt, but thanks to you we are able to," she said. "We love you for what you do in supporting our children."

Such support is necessary in helping military children due to the mobile nature of the military, said Camellia Jefferson, USAG school liaison officer.

The support of local school systems in allowing out-of-zone waivers, helping students transfer into school during the school year, helping military students adapt, and working with students and their Families to ensure standards are met all allow for military children to make successful transitions, Jefferson added.

Schools also benefit from the partnership, said Dr. Narvis McPherson, an education specialist in the Georgia Department of Education. Economically, the enrollment of military children helps increase funding for the Georgia school system, allowing them to do more to educate children, she said.

"The military has a great impact on our area schools and most people don't realize it," McPherson said.

What is noticeable in the schools is the mentorship provided by Soldiers to the schools, said McPherson, a former principal for Paul West Middle School in Fulton County.

"They show our children how important the military is to our culture," McPherson said, adding the loss of the installations will negatively affect many schools. "Unfortunately, this will affect a lot of communities. It's a big loss for schools because they lose tutors and mentors," she said.

Lisa Brinson, Communities in Schools Program coordinator for Finch Elementary School in Fulton County, shared similar sentiments.

In Finch, she said Soldiers have served as tutors and mentors, donated school supplies and helped children learn about chess. Additionally, by interacting with Soldiers, Brinson said children have experienced a wider world view.

"They see there's more than school and their home," Brinson said. "It helps open up and develop new areas academically."

Overall, attendees praised the partnership and said they were sad to see it come to an end. Still, despite its end, Grays told educators that the military still needs people like them to help take care of military children.

"Even though we are closing, the military still needs you," she said. It was a request McPherson said educators have been honored to complete so far.

"They (Soldiers) do a great service for our country," she said. "We have to take care of their kids."

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