April 30, 2021 – Duval County Public Schools is proud to serve 8,672 military students and their families!
Military children often face unique challenges, with one or both parents occasionally on deployment. Schools that have a high military student population, like Venetia Elementary and Mayport Middle, have unique programs in place to aid in the transition process.
For example, at Venetia, there is a team known as the Comfort Crew. Comprised of both military and non-military connected students, this team helps to welcome the new students and get them familiar with the school’s environment.
“It’s important for us to support our military students to understand the issues and resiliency they may face as they are transitioning,” said Venetia Elementary School principal, Monique Chatman. “Our Comfort Crew is essential in helping our military students get acclimated with their new school and classroom setting.”
Roy Fallon, a middle grades social studies teacher at Mayport Middle School and retired US Marine, knows all too well what battles military children face daily.
“Having lived as a military student myself, sometimes going to four and five schools as my dad transferred around, military students go through a lot much like single parent students,” said Fallon. “During these times, students are fearful of losing their parent and we need to support them every way possible.”
Mayport Middle School’s Shark Ambassadors program was created just for that. Like the Comfort Crew, a group of hand-selected, veteran students welcome new students with open arms, showing them to their classrooms and introducing them to important staff and administrators. Principal Chris Koek said the program is especially helpful at one of the hardest times of a new student’s day – lunch time.
“When you look at military children, they’re missing big components of their main support system and those are their parents and their friends,” said Koek. “By implementing the future ‘Anchored for Life’ program, an initiative supported and funded by the Department of Defense, we hope these students build and maintain meaningful, lifelong friendships.”
In addition to support provided by individual schools, the district offers a full-time military life counselor at each school who provides one-on-one services with students and their families. In some cases, counselors meet with deployment groups every week where students can openly share their feelings with other students who may be experiencing similar emotions.