By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fair preps military families for school year
A Children, Youth and School Services volunteer gives balloons to children during the education fair. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Army spouse and mother of three Brigitte Spence took advantage of the Education & Community Information Fair on Wednesday at Fort Stewart’s Club Stewart.
Spence, with children Casey, 9, and Ezekiel, 5, by her side, pushes 19-month old Petunia in a stroller, casually walking the circuit of vendors’ tables, picking up school supplies and browsing the display at a bookseller’s booth.
“We just got here in April from Fort Sill, Oklahoma,” Spence said. Being a newcomer to Fort Stewart and Liberty County, “having everything in one place is really beneficial,” she said.
The fair provided military parents a one-stop information forum to help them prepare their children for school and learn what resources are available on and off post.
“The event helps get our military families connected with what’s around them,” School Liaison Officer Greg Cook said. He taught at Bradwell Institute for five years and coached soccer, so he knows the community pretty well, he said. His primary job is to assist military families successfully transition their children into — and out of — area schools.
“We work closely with local school districts and boards,” Cook said. “And we are the liaison for the garrison commander on all school matters.”
He said Children, Youth and School Services must keep up with changing national and state education legislation, graduation requirements and class-credit transfers. Cook said CYSS, which is under Morale, Welfare and Recreation, also works closely with area schools to help military children cope with the stress they experience when a parent is deployed.
Seventy-two groups participated in the fair, including public and private schools, DoD schools and home-school groups, CYSS, the Cub Scouts, Army Community Service, Sylvan Learning Center, the Girl Scouts of America, Farmer’s Natural Foods, Operation Homefront and Usborne Books & More. In the morning, AAFES presented a fashion show featuring school uniforms and back-to-school styles.
“We get a combination of (students) who are affiliated with the military and those who are not,” said Delores Mallard, a resource specialist with the Long County School System.
Mallard said Long County’s school population is increasing, and more military families are moving to Long County.
Walker Middle School teacher Julia Smiley said teachers in Long County, like their Liberty County School System counterparts, help soldiers’ children deal with parents’ deployments.
“Being an ex-military brat, I know what they’re going through,” Smiley said. Smiley teaches eighth grade technology.
Operation Homefront volunteers gave away backpacks filled with school supplies to the children of junior non-commissioned officers as part of a national Backpack Brigade campaign. The families who received backpacks at the fair had to be dependents of E-6 and E-5, and had to have pre-registered online.
“We’re giving away close to 700 backpacks,” Operation Homefront Director of Marketing Leenie Ruben said. “And that’s just for Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield. We do the whole state of Georgia.” Ruben estimates the organization will give away at least 1,000 backpacks to military children in Georgia before school begins. Dollar Tree donated a lot of the school supplies, she said.
Military families attending the fair also seemed to show an interest in tutorial services, Sylvan Learning Center Director Dino Papadopoulos said.
“I’ve already had 20 families come by,” Papadopoulos said, one hour into the fair. Sylvan has a center in Savannah, but is interested in establishing a presence on post, he said.
For more information, call Stewart School Liaison at 767-6533.

Sign up for our E-Newsletters