Whether it was in the city, in the suburbs, or out in the country, for many of us, the hometown in which we grew up shaped a lot about who we are. But for a child with a parent in the military, it’s moving from city to city—or even continent to continent—that shapes who they are.
“Being a military kid is definitely not easy, but the experiences you gain change your life, and I wouldn’t change that for the world,” explains Kaleigh McFadden, a junior at Robinson High School in South Tampa. Kaleigh’s father is assigned to U.S. Central Command, a military unit that calls Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base home.
Many of America’s most crucial military maneuvers depend on planning and partnerships created by the service members at MacDill. And those service members’ children depend on our community to help them succeed in school. This summer, Hillsborough County Public Schools and MacDill Air Force Base received a national award that celebrates the strength of that community connection.
The Military Child Education Coalition awarded our community with the 2018 Pete Taylor Recognized Community Partnership Award.
The award commends school districts and military installations that work together to support military children. Think about it: These families are counting on Hillsborough County Public Schools to help prepare their students for life despite frequent moves, time apart from their parents, and the emotional toll of the ever-present risk facing their loved ones as they defend our country.
Specifically, the Pete Taylor Award recognizes the work of something unique in the United States: The MacDill Council for Educational Excellence. The council works to enhance the educational experiences of military-connected students enrolled in Hillsborough County Public Schools. It links together our district and base leadership in conversations about ways to meet these students’ educational and social-emotional needs.
Over the past three years, the partnership has resolved 42 issues, ranging from adjusting application deadlines to ensuring credits and GPAs were recalculated and transferred across thousands of miles.
“In order for our military members at MacDill Air Force Base to carry out their mission, we need to carry out our mission and ensure they know their children are being taken care of by our district,” says Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins.
Our partnership has also provided local students with the opportunity to experience how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is used daily at MacDill. During MacDill STEM Day, students from many of Hillsborough Schools’ 27 different STEM programs travel onto the base to see high-tech careers up close.
In Hillsborough County, 7,200 students are “military kids” like Kaleigh. At MacDill, her dad is a leader in the Army. At Robinson High, she’s a leader in Student to Student (S2S), a club that connects newcomers to friendly faces who can show them around the school. Moving may be a part of a military kid’s life, but our community is among the best in the nation at making sure our hometown feels like their hometown for as long as they’re here.
Kim Sukach serves as Hillsborough County Public Schools’ Military Liaison, working with military families and MacDill Air Force Base.
She has served in roles at both the school and district level since 1996 and holds a Bachelor’s in Social Science Education from USF and a Master’s in School Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. She considers it an honor to serve our military families as they transition through our schools.