Signal Soldiers, Spouses reach out to Fern Elementary

By Maj. Avon Cornelius and Mrs. Liana Kim, 311th Signal Command (Theater)September 12, 2013

Soldiers and Family members hand school supplies to Fern Elementary School students to fill their new backpacks for the new school year, Sep. 10.
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Students say thanks and exchange handshakes and hugs with the Soldiers on their way back to class, after visiting and taking photos with the Soldiers, Sep. 10.
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Soldiers and Civilians of HHC, 311th SC (T) help students chose a backpack among the colorful array of donated school supplies, presented to Fern Elementary School, Sep. 10.
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HONOLULU, Hawaii -- A rainbow of colorful backpacks, slippers, piles of notebooks, crayons and other school supplies lined the steps of the elementary school, a small group of Soldiers carefully arranged the gifts and waited quietly for the students to arrive.

The Soldiers, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 311th Signal Command (Theater), presented about a truck load of school supplies to the Fern Elementary School faculty and students, visited and took photos with the students and teachers, Tuesday.

"The purpose of our Back to School drive is to help ensure the students have the best opportunity to get a quality education," said Capt. Jason Grams, HHC commander. "The key is to really focus on the families and to give the kids the supplies they need to be successful."

"Your coming in to bring these donations really helps open up my students' perspective of other people trying to help them succeed in their learning, and lets them know that others do care," said Leanna Agcaoili, a 4th grade teacher."It is good to know there are military families who care about a better future for our students. Thank you for the donations, it really helps me as a teacher, to help them succeed."

The Soldiers of HHC, 311th SC (T) and their Family Readiness Group, led by the commander's wife, Stefanie Grams, organized the drive. They compiled lists of supplies the school listed as most needed, and many of the unit's Soldiers, Department of Army Civilians and Families pitched in to make this year's donation triple the size of last year's.

"The company really pulled together to get supplies for the children," said HHC 1st Sgt. Bryan Pfeifer. He said this is the second consecutive year the unit has gathered and donated supplies to the school, traditionally during the first month of the new school year.

The Soldiers of HHC have been partnering with Fern Elementary since 2011 for various events throughout the school year, such as the monthly Read Out Loud book program for Soldiers to read to students, and the school's annual Drug Free Jump Rope for the Heart field day to promote active healthy lifestyles and introduce students to positive role models and professional opportunities.

"The joy and excitement on [the students'] faces, when the Soldiers are engaged with them, shows us that it means a lot, that someone else cares about them," said fourth grade teacher Mark Atta of the book reading program. "It's great to have the Soldiers come here and give them that extra support."

The 311th SC(T), headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, is the designated Signal Command for

the Pacific Theater and provides ongoing support for cooperative military exercises with our partner nations throughout the Pacific and Warfighters around the world.

"Many of our students come to school without any supplies at all," Atta said, "So we just want to thank the 31th Signal Command for giving these much needed supplies, it will really help out."