TOPEKA — Students at local schools created journals as a final project in their last days of the Military Support Groups, which are a tool to support military children of deployed family members. The journals allow students a safe place to write feelings, thoughts, and to draw pictures during summer break, until the groups meet again in the fall.
The Kansas Capital Area Red Cross used the grant from the Topeka Active 20-30 Club to help expand the Military Support Groups by purchasing supplies, training Red Cross volunteers, and growing the number of participating schools.
The goal of the program is to create networks of support for the military children and connect them with other military and non-military youth. “Everyone understands me here,” said Lacey, a 6th grade student at Pauline South Intermediate School, “There isn’t any judging, and everyone knows what I am talking about.” Connecting military children with local resources creates community support and enhanced well-being, thus improving the quality of life for the military and their family.
Students met once or twice per month over the past school year and followed a curriculum written by the Kansas National Guard, which included art projects, lessons, and a time to communicate feelings with National Guard staff, and trained Red Cross volunteers, while having a school employee present as well.
Mrs. Diana Detwiler, School Counselor at Pauline South Intermediate School said, “The teachers truly understand how important this program is for the students; it provides the regular support that they need.”
Currently, there are about 100 participating children at 4 Topeka-area schools, with plans to expand in the future. The program has created collaboration between the Red Cross and the Kansas National Guard. The groups will continue to meet next year after a final picnic hosted at the Red Cross on June 2nd, where students will build birdhouses which demonstrate the journey birds take, and relates it back to what their Service Member does for annual training, deployments, and missions.