The Army Partners in Education program has been a tool that has been used by Fort Leonard Wood's military units and local schools to foster relationships between service members and students. By partnering with local schools, military units have been able to promote education, develop skills and mentor children.

"The PIE program is an awesome way to connect schools and the military to ensure student success and fruitful community partnerships," said Michele Sumter, principal of the Waynesville Middle School who is partnered with the 701st Military Police Battalion and the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy.

"Our PIE partners graciously help with more than 15 activities each year to include; Parent Night, parent conferences, school dances, positive behavior celebrations, picture days, Love of Reading Days and our health screenings," she added.

Sumter explained if they did not have their partnerships, they would not be able to do many events for students.

"We count it a privilege to serve our students alongside these selfless military members. We hope that these partnerships last a lifetime," Sumter said.

Spc. Justin McNeill, 35th Engineer Battalion, said he enjoys his time mentoring the children at Thayer Elementary.

"For the children to work with Soldiers in their school activities, I think it motivates them to do their best," McNeill said.

"I believe it's important to involve local military units, because it gives the kids a chance to know Soldiers on a personal level and learn the values of what it means to be in the United States Army," McNeill added.

Robyn Justice, the principal of Thayer Elementary, who partners with the 35th Engr. Bn., said she believes the PIE program also maximizes opportunities for educational enrichment and academic success for the children.

The battalion has participated in several events this year with Thayer Elementary School to include; the District Love of Reading Day, District Homecoming Day, PBS Picnic, Make a Difference Day and the Thayer Dance Recital.

"This program enriches our curriculum as we provide opportunities for the students to learn about military career pathways available to them upon graduation," Justice said.

Last year, the 4th and 5th graders had the opportunity to work with the 35th's instructors on Training Area 52 for a bridge building demonstration. Soldiers mentored the children, showing them how to use hand signals to guide the 35th instructors to turn and adjust speeds of the boat in the water.

"Students were able to build knowledge and develop collaboration skills with the Soldiers. This type of learning helps the students to synthesize the career pathways and use metacognition," Justice said.

"The students will be able to transfer this knowledge to future plans as they inquire what different careers will interest them as they grow up," Justice said.