Soldiers give 'kudos' to Adopt-a-School program
Staff Sgt. Craig Kunkel, a Soldier with Co. A, 1st Bn., 16th Inf. Regt., 1st HBCT, 1st Inf. Div., shares his success story about the Adopt-a-School program during the Education Summit Nov. 18 at Riley's Conference Center, Fort Riley. Kunkel's unit is partnered with Westwood Elementary School in Junction City.

FORT RILEY, Kan. - Soldiers are typically seen walking the halls of local schools waiting to pick their child up or to attend a school function.

Since the creation of the Adopt-a-School program in September, more Soldiers can be seen in the halls and visiting classrooms of on-post schools, as well as various schools in the Central Flint Hills Region.

During the second annual Child, Youth and School Services Education Summit Nov. 18 at Riley's Conference Center, three Soldiers shared their success stories from working in the program.

During the initial meeting in September, with more than 40 school officials, more than 100 Soldiers showed interest in the program.

"I kind of looked at it like, 'I don't know when I'll have time,'" said Sgt. 1st Class Gerry Goodale, a Soldier with the rear detachment, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. "I really didn't see where we would have time to be able to do such a thing because it takes a lot of time and effort, especially with Wamego schools because it's a little drive to Wamego."

Goodale's unit is partnered with West Elementary School, Unified School District 320, in Wamego.

The partnership between Soldiers and the schools is meant to increase awareness in both native Kansans, as well as military children about the Army's mission at Fort Riley; provide Soldier mentors in classrooms; and further the success of the Army Community Covenant.

During the planning stages of the partnership, Goodale worked with Amy Flinn, West Elementary School principal, discussing different events and activities Soldiers could participate in, along with the students.

Those events included Veterans Day and a Parent Teacher Organization carnival.

"What I wanted to do was try and make this - instead of just a once in a while thing - every six months a Soldier shows up at school. I wanted to try to make this into a weekly event with my school," Goodale said. "So what I do as the Army-side of the house is, I just consider it to be a tasking ... I plan for it every week.

"Every Thursday, I have a (noncommissioned officer) ... and a group of Soldiers that really love going and being with the children. That's pretty much their duty every Thursday is to get in the van and drive to Wamego and just go interact with the kids. They do all kinds of different things on a weekly basis - mainly just talking to classes, going out to recess with them."

When the partnership began, Goodale wasn't sure the students would be as receptive to the program as they are.

"I really thought that with being a local military area, that the Army would be more familiar to them - a little more in their life because we're here, but I think with Wamego being as far out as it is, the Army's not quite as much in their face like it is in Riley County or in Geary County," he said.

The principal pairs Soldiers with students who need a little extra one-on-one time.

"(Flinn) tries to pair (Soldiers) up with ... children that just need a little bit more mentorship, a little bit more contact. Some of them are boys with a single parent mother with no father figure - just to kind of give them a little bit more contact with a high standing person," he said.

Goodale said he feels the program has been a successful one.

"It's an outstanding program," he said. "I know a lot of the units are not as engaged in this as I am, and I know that a lot of the schools in the area, from what I've heard, are not quite as engaged in this. I encourage you as educators, and as the leaders of the schools, to please embrace this program."

The other Soldiers in attendance agreed during their testimonies.

"It has been just awesome," said Staff Sgt. Craig Kunkel, Company A, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. "The kids (have) a blast, they love seeing the Soldiers at the school every time we go up there. It's amazing. Just to be there, it helps me to see the kids smile."

Kunkel's unit is partnered with Westwood Elementary School, USD 475 in Junction City, and has participated alongside the students in events including the schoolwide Freedom Walk and a good behavior program.

Partnered with two schools, Wakefield School, USD 379 in Clay County, which serves kindergarten through high school students in Wakefield, and Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, USD 383 in Manhattan, is the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div.

Soldiers in this unit have participated in the Manhattan Veterans Day Parade, the school expansion ground-breaking ceremony and plan to attend the spring festival at Woodrow Wilson.

"I think this is an awesome program for these little kids growing up, and to see (and) experience what some of these other kids go through," said 1st Lt. Joe Tiberio, 2nd Bn., 32nd FA Regt., 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div.

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