Adopt-a-school partnerships enrich lives

By Beth Potter, School Liaison Officer, USAG ItalyApril 5, 2018

VICENZA, Italy - During a school assembly, Vicenza High School students were asked to raise their hands to indicate how many times they had changed schools since Kindergarten. More than half of the student body indicated they had been enrolled in six or more different schools.

Although multiple transitions can create challenges, they can also build resilience. Partnerships in Education (PIE) is a program that brings units and schools together to create and build strong collaborative partnerships.

One of the many PIE volunteerism and resource-sharing initiatives is Adopt-a-School, whereby military units establish regular, direct contact and volunteer support with a specific school. These partnerships take a holistic approach to supporting students. Units work alongside teachers and students to promote wellness initiatives, provide powerful role models, and foster academic, social and physical growth of students in the community.

By harnessing a unit's unique assets and matching them with school needs, Soldiers have an opportunity to give back to their community.

"Army Strong is more than a care package or 'welcome home' banners.

It's creating a network of individual Soldier strengths and delivering these skills to our students," said Command Sergeant Maj. Phil Nicholson, U.S. Army Africa. "We find that the entire community, in particular the students, gain from the additional resources we're able to provide."

Through talent management and task analysis, the schools and units determine activities that are tailored to the school's and partner's needs and go beyond a one-time transactional experience.

Adopt-a-School is a critical program that is nested within Army Strong Europe priorities. Unlike stateside schools, children attending local DoDEA schools are 100 percent military-connected, and all serve alongside their parents.

"I think it is fair to say that everyone in this room has a role in the education of our military children," said Allison Peltz, principal of Vicenza Elementary School, at the Adopt-a-School signing here in February. "And education is more than what happens in the classroom."

The success of the program is in its name: partner units adopt a school and create a model of effective collaboration to support students and teachers. The stronger the alliance between units and schools, the more resilient the children will be. The greater the students' strengths and capabilities, the more secure their parents will feel.

Readiness is not only the assurance that married Soldiers know that "the village" is supporting their child when they are on missions, but also Adopt-a-School is a concrete way to empower and promote leadership development among junior leaders.

The Soldiers aren't doing lunch duty - they're inspiring children to eat healthy, to get out and be active, and to create habits that will last a lifetime. The program is integration, synchronization and resource optimization at its best. Through coaching and mentoring, senior leaders can manage talent and empower junior leaders to leverage their skills and share expertise. It also provides troops with "Soldier for life" competencies transferable to the civilian world.

Solid partnerships also enable Soldiers to build skills to help solve their own problems and become and remain capable of not only meeting the unique demands of Army life, but also passing that on to military youth and underwriting enduring unit/school relationships that will stand the test of time.

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