By Sgt. 1st Class Rhonda M. Lawson 3rd Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsNovember 4, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Soldiers assigned to the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, took part in highlighting Taylors Creek Elementary School during the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education's 19th Annual Bus Trip Across Georgia.
Taylors Creek was one of eight schools in the state of Georgia and the only school in Liberty County to receive a visit from the Partnership this year. The tour included a combination of educators, students, business, government and community leaders from around the state.
The theme for this year's bus ride was "Georgia's Public Schools: Changing Culture, Building Community, and Reaching Excellence." Taylors Creek principal, Debbie Rodriguez, said she believes the school is doing just that.
"Our test scores are very high," Rodriquez said. "Half of our students live in poverty, and it's much harder when you have students who are at risk. I think that's a factor when we can beat the odds. Our staff gives 150 percent."
Rodriguez added that the fact that the school has a large population of military children, which adds to the school's diversity, also plays a part.
"One of the things that brought our school to the Partnership's attention is that at least 50 percent of our students have at least one parent in the military, and that we are supportive of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade," Rodriguez said. "We wanted the military here [today] because they do support us, and it's very heartwarming to see the troops."
The Special Troops Battalion has sponsored Taylors Creek for the last few years. Activities include mentoring and tutoring, but the Soldiers also assist in events such as physical training and the school's annual Fall Festival.
Although the Soldiers didn't do much mentoring during the bus trip event, they did get a tour of the school, as well as watch the teachers in action. Other Fort Stewart officials who attended the event included Col. Kevin Milton, the Fort Stewart garrison commander, and the 3rd Sustainment Brigade Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Gary Gillon.
"We just enjoy helping out with the kids and having fun," said Sgt. Mark Tevis, the STB Taylors Creek liaison Non-commisioned Officer. "The kids like to see Soldiers in their uniforms."
The fun doesn't just end with the students. Many of the Soldiers get the same enjoyment.
"It's a lot of fun," said Sgt. James Leaptrot, an STB Soldier who has volunteered at least five times with the school. "It's nice to play with the kids and do something other than our day-to-day job."
Although Rodriguez admitted that the brigade's recent deployment affected some of the support they get from the unit, the school continued to keep its ties with the 3rd Sustainment Brigade.
"We try to treat them like they're Family; we try to go above and beyond in getting them connected to the school," she said.
Some of the ways they do that is by introducing technology such as video messaging into the classroom. Many teachers at the school use it as a teaching aid, but the school has also used it to keep deployed parents informed as to what's going on at the school.
"Doing things like this makes the kids feel better because a lot of their parents have been deployed," Sgt. Leaptrot said.
The Taylors Creek stop was the third visit on the second day of the trip. After leaving Taylors Creek, the bus trip went to the Golden Isles Career Academy.