Education Summit
Nearly 100 military leaders, school administrators and educators filled the Grande Ballroom of the Lone Star Conference Center for an Education Summit at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 3. (Photo Credit: Janecze Wright, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Resilience is defined as the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. It can also be described as the ability to adapt to any circumstance.

This year’s Education Summit celebrated resiliency and provided educators, administrators and the Fort Hood community tools to overcome obstacles, adjust to change and continue to thrive.

The primary focus of the annual event is to ensure that families are better informed and prepared to make meaningful decisions for their military connected students.

“As education changes and social media and other outside influences affect that, it’s important for us to come together and discuss those topics,” said Terri Jones, Fort Hood school liaison officer. “Our population on Fort Hood changes yearly, and due to that, almost any topic we come across is new because we have a new audience. It’s important for that new audience to know what special supports and resources are here in the area, within our school districts and within our community, that will help assist and support those transitions or those needs.”

Nearly 100 attendees consisting of Fort Hood leaders, regional school administrators and educators from nine school districts were on hand to collaborate, build positive relationships and discuss methods to better support the education of students throughout the community.

“Let me just say thank you upfront for your investment in the education of our military kids,” said Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, the commanding general of III Armored Corps and Fort Hood. “It’s clear by your presence today, it’s clear by your partnership throughout the year and we really appreciate it.”

Bernabe welcomed the attendees and connected with the audience on a personal level, sharing fond memories of years spent in the Killeen Independent School District.

He expressed pride in the number of Purple Star designated schools, a support program for transitioning military students committed to meeting the unique needs of military connected students and their families, and praised the resiliency shown by military families and educators.

“Every one of the schools in the nine districts around Fort Hood have taken a lot of great steps to make sure we’re taking good care of military kids who are a part of your school system so thank you for that,” Bernabe expressed.

Keynote speaker Dr. Robin Battershell, community partner and former Temple ISD and Belton ISD superintendent, also drew on personal experiences to begin her speech. She asserted that the long-term effects of COVID, immigration and social media have the biggest impact on education.

Battershell encouraged teaching resilience, developing fair and realistic immigration policies and training educators and students on social media best practices, noting that the event was the ideal platform to increase awareness.

“It’s one of the rare opportunities for the military, the schools and then other support services in the community to sit in one room and hear the same information,” she said. “I don’t honestly know of another opportunity like that one.”

Keynote speaker
Keynote speaker Dr. Robin Battershell discusses the impacts of the pandemic, immigration and social media has on education during her address at the Education Summit at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 3. The summit brought together military leaders, school administrators and educators to better connect military families with their community school districts. (Photo Credit: Janecze Wright, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

The annual event provides a unique opportunity for Fort Hood leaders to discuss and share ideas with area school districts, and relay that information to Soldiers and their family members.

Military-connected students represent over 30% of the total student population in the Fort Hood community and Texas has the second largest population of military-connected students, more than 100,000 attending public schools.

As such, Fort Hood supports schools through the Adopt-A-School program, an initiative implemented in 2004 to educate community partners and schools on military culture and what the Great Place has to offer.

The interaction, support and mentorship the Soldiers provide through the program enriches students’ lives, explained Col. Chad R. Foster, Fort Hood garrison commander.

“Thank you to the Soldiers whose commitment and support inspires passion, collaboration and an understanding that the time students spend with Soldiers makes lasting and lifelong impressions students will carry forward with them as they complete their education and become future leaders,” said Foster. “Thank you to the school districts for allowing us to take part in the educational development of your students.”

The event provided additional information through breakout sessions focused on special education and higher education.

Command Sgt. Maj. Stephine Sweat, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, said that although her 10th grade son does not require any special education accommodations, it was important to attend the special education path project breakout session.

“My child is not in any program ... but it’s helpful for me as a command sergeant major of an organization to understand the resources available,” she said. “I can push that down to the lowest levels so (Soldiers) can take part in that, participate or advocate for their children.”

Sweat said this is her second year attending and she is always glad to be a part of the event and help where she can.

Command general welcoming remarks
Lt. Gen. Sean Bernable, commanding general, III Armored Corps and Fort Hood, welcomes attendees to an Education Summit at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 3. (Photo Credit: Janecze Wright, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“It’s important that we all share within the community the resources that are available,” she expressed. “I’m thankful for the Fort Hood Killeen area, Harker Heights area and school districts for making these available to us. Thank you.”

Nate Turner, associate director of school safety and readiness at the Texas School Safety Center, spoke about how the organization supports schools and school districts. He said the event was a great way to share information and for attendees to ask questions.

“I want to make them feel comfortable with what they need to be able to do to keep their kids safe and make sure that they’re in compliance with state laws and mandates,” Turner said.

Keynote speaker Duncan Kirkwood published a best-selling book called “Rerouting: Resilience Tools and Tactics” and is a recognized authority on psychological resilience. Kirkwood has spent his professional life working to empower students, educators, organizations, and communities in an interactive way, focused on personal development and shifting paradigms to, “push how people, think, see themselves and see the world.”

The Army veteran served as a Master Resilience Trainer tasked with helping Soldiers build mental toughness and mental agility. He said his expertise has equipped him to arm educators and district leaders with tactics to implement resiliency, self-care and self-love.

“Education is the game-changer,” Kirkwood asserted. “That’s how you change the trajectory of a young person’s life is for them to get access to high quality education, but they have to want it. This generation of young people is probably the smartest group that’s ever lived, they’re the most diverse, the most inclusive, with the most access to information that we’ve ever seen, but they have to have the desire to want it, to do more, to take advantage of the opportunities and the education.

“So events like this," he continued, "where Fort Hood can really show the partnerships that they have with district leaders and program partners to really support the education of young people, it’s huge, because every young person that gets a quality education is a young person that potentially can go be a (member of) Congress ... can go be a general, can go be a teacher, can open their own school and is not falling into a cycle of poverty or violence or hopelessness, so education really is that big equalizer.”

Kirkwood praised Fort Hood’s dedication to education and expressed that the base left a lasting impression.

“I think it’s beautiful that Fort Hood has this commitment to education. You don’t really see that everywhere, where especially military-affiliated organizations have such a laser focus on making sure that children are getting the highest quality education,” he conveyed. "It’s just a beautiful thing to see, and as I travel the country, I’m going to use Fort Hood as really a best practice of how communities can come together around educating children.”