CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Clay County students are getting ready to finish out their first week back in the classroom. While being back at school can be a challenge for many, it can be even more difficult for children whose parents are in the military.
Military families often cope with unique situations, including deployment, changing schools mid-year, and in some cases, an injury or death of a parent.
Oakleaf Junior High School 8th grader, Christen Wallace, shared a special bond with her father, Christopher Wallace. He served in the Navy, but had been retired for a number of years, when he unexpectedly died last year.
After his death, Christen struggled with even wanting to return to school.
It was heartbreaking for her mother, Kenya Wallace.
Wallace said the programs for military students were a blessing for Christen. "I didn't know that they even had anything for military kids," Wallace said. "The fact that he was already out of the military, I didn't even know that she was even able to use these assets and these resources."
Through the resources made available, Christen is once again thriving at school. She participated in several programs geared toward military students, including Military Lunch Bunch. It allows military students to spend special time together.
She also took part in Operation Hero. That's a 10-week program aimed at social and emotional learning for military families. Thanks to a partnership with the YMCA, it’s free.
Patricia Hunter is the district's Military Student Support Specialist. She said being aware of what military families go through makes a difference. "When they come with those unique set of issues, they would like for their district to be aware," Hunter said. "And be able to provide services and resources for them. That is all, that is all our military families are expecting."
Christen's father is never far from her mind. His picture is even part of her student ID card. Christen and her mom agree just knowing the support was there is helping them heal. That's a message they have for other military families.
"For them to step in and let us know that yes, she is able to use it... he did serve and she can get those benefits, that helped us tremendously," Wallace said. "So, I think my main thing is just knowing that it's out there."
Christen went through Operation Hero when it was a pilot program. It’s launching in several Clay County schools this fall and later in the spring. For more information about the military support services offered within the district, click here: https://www.oneclay.net/Page/4722
Hunter adds she can be reached out to directly about how to participate in some of these services. Her email is: email@example.com