Preschoolers waving flags

Preschoolers at Hocking Hills Elementary leaving a veteran’s assembly waving their American flags handed out by the Stages Family Inc. This non-profit group organizes community events to raise money for local military families and support educating students, according to Stages Family Inc. Vice President Casey McNichols.

LOGAN — When you see the Purple Star Award proudly displayed at each Logan-Hocking School, you can rest assured that military-connected students and their families will receive much deserved attention.

Only 41 schools across Ohio were identified as Purple Star Award winners by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for 2019. The Logan-Hocking School District was designated for their contributions to military families.

A Purple Star Award signifies the school’s commitment to serving military-connected students and families, according to ODE. The district will receive a Purple Star to display for public awareness.

Meeting four criteria and chosen by an advisory board consisting of representatives from ODE, Higher Education, Veterans Services and an Adjutant General, LHSD can now beam with pride as their efforts have been noticed.

Applicants had to identify a staff person who would be the point of contact for the students and families for each school. These representatives had to go through special training to better understand the dynamics, needs and location of resources for families.

The point of contact is also responsible for informing teachers of military-connected students and any special considerations that are needed.

Kristen Stimmel, teacher at Central Elementary, spearheaded the application process after LHSD Board member, Ed Penrod, brought the information to the board’s attention.

Stimmel looking for an internship project for completing her degree in administration, was asked to lead the process to receive the award.

Andy Rice, principal at Hocking Hills Elementary shared more about how the award was won.

“Karen Stimmel was instrumental in getting all of this together for the district. We went through a webinar training,” he said. He confirmed that there is a contact person in each building in the district.

“When we met, one of the things that was being worked on is how to collect data across the district to identify the families. We are also coming up with something we can hand a family who is coming in to let them know the resources that are available,” continued Rice.

Stimmel explained that the district would ask a new family at registration about whether they were a military family. Now, they want to accurately find all of the families, even if they did not share that information at registration.

So, they sent out a districtwide survey and they are adding fliers to open house packets.

A dedicated webpage on the district’s website was also required as part of the application. The webpage not only has resource links, but also shows photos of students involved in many patriotic events.

The district posts several resource links on its dedicated page for the families. Among them are: Ohio Military Kids Upcoming Events, Family Readiness and Warrior Support, Military Families: A Guide to Moving.

Finally for the application, the school showed the many ways in which it acknowledges and celebrates active and former service men, woman and their children.

The district has students of all ages who participate in many efforts that are not only educational, but also welcome and appreciate those in the community from the military families of present, past and future.

“For example, we had a student-led Veteran’s Day assembly where the student council actually led the ceremony,” Rice said.

To list a few other activities from the district, the following are all of equal importance to those involved: community parade participation, military appreciation nights at games, a Cadet Core program, senior recognition for enlistment, educational lessons, assemblies, guest speakers, and patriotic performances.

Clearly, LHSD is deserving of the Purple Star Award. To continue the efforts to further support the families, all of the liaisons will be attending additional training provided by ODE.

On Oct. 21, staff in the district will be encouraged to attend a training being hosted at the LHSD professional development day.

“Guidance counselors will especially be encouraged to attend. We want to make sure we are properly educated on working with the families,” said Stimmel.

Being a community partner is important to the liaisons, so they have discussed using student groups, such as National Honor Society to complete work like mowing yards and helping the military families, especially during a time of deployment.

A $500 grant was received by the school from Donors Choose. The funding has been used to create a lending library at each school that contains informational packets and books for all ages.

“The books are for even as young as preschool and they are on topics like expressing feelings as well as adolescent topics that students would be interested in,” explained Stimmel.

The first Purple Star Award schools were recognized in 2017 by ODE.

Since 2001, more than 60,000 Ohioans have actively served away from home and 34,000 Ohio students are members of military families, according to ODE.

Children from service families have much in common both positive and negative. They are frequently moving, having family separated, dealing with health or medical concerns, managing mental health needs, and living with trauma induced stress.

On the other hand, the families show resilience to change, compassion for others, deep-rooted values and community service interests.

Districts who can positively support the students while at school and in the community are truly “leaving no child left behind.”

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