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Purple Star points to unique student needs

Papio South increases drive to support military-connected students
DAF School Liaison Program

Since 2017, The Purple Star School Committee has been trying to help military students adapt during their moves. Papillion LaVista South hopes to integrate more resources and systems to help accommodate new and existing military students and feel recognized through this program.

Many people may not know the struggles of military children, due to the lack of education on the topic, so in an effort to help, the schools brought in two educated speakers on one of the staff days.

“The speakers presented information about military families and how to support students that transition from one school to another due to a military move,” said Bubba Penas, Assistant Activities Director. 

The transition of moving as a military student can be very difficult along with normal family issues. When asked “What are some of the things that military-connected families have to deal with that other families don’t?” The school liaison, Liane Yanikov said “Frequent PCS (Permanent Change of Station), Deployments, Unexpected events or rapid deployments, navigating new communities, new schools, new friends.  Being separated from family, meaning aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents live in another state, across the country, other side of the world etc. Their support system is small, sometimes only the immediate family they move with.”

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The frequency of moving can take a toll on a child or military families mental or social life in which they have to learn to work around situations or work within the one they are part of already. Within these situations are also some stressors that make certain things harder within their present conflicts. These are the types of situations that a Military Family Life Counselor helps with when families are dealing with harder transitions.

“The common stressors are stress management, relationships at home, communication issues, adjustment to military/community culture, parenting challenges, grief/loss, family separation, and again, every family and situation is different and has unique challenges,” Yankiov explained. 

Separately from the new committee, the student ambassador program, led by guidance counselor Mr. Jim Whitcomb and Ms. Sara Powell, is a helpful resource to new military students. The student ambassadors, chosen the year prior, are in charge of showing new kids around the school as well as helping out at big functions in the second semester, including the Career Academy fair. These students understand the sacrifices made by military students and use this to be someone that the new students can get help from as much as they please. This coming year, they are considering the idea of placing military students with other military students so that they can be helped by those who understand their difficult transitions.

The biggest things are to meet new students and show them around school. But we also want to make them feel at home,” Whitcomb said.

Penas, along with many new members of the growing committee, have an understanding of the complicated life of children with military affiliations and some even have personal experience. Kimberly Prey is a member of the military community and has a son who attends Papio South, having moved to Nebraska in 2020.

“I feel like I have personal experience that I could contribute to the Purple Star team. But then I also have a heart for military kids. So I think that made me feel like it was just the right thing to do, to be a part of the team and hopefully do a good job,” Prey said. 

The new forming committee has many strong hearts going into the project for the next school year. Right now, most actions being taken by the committee are only ones of understanding and learning how to deal with the concepts that have been forgotten over the years. Altogether, Military families have a lot to do and a lot to work with, within their situations, and Military Family Life Counselors and Purple Star Leadership Committee leaders have a lot to do with helping them within their families as well. 

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