PGCPS Celebrates Military Students, Families During Month of the Military Child

Community Encouraged to ‘Purple Up! For Military Kids’ on April 20 

PRINCE GEORGE, Va. (April 1, 2022) - Prince George County Public Schools is proud to join school divisions and communities across America in recognizing the Month of the Military Child during April, highlighting military-connected students and families within our school community. 

The annual recognition dates back to 1986 when former U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger selected April as the month when military children and families would be honored for their daily sacrifices and the challenges they overcame. Deployments, extended separations, and frequent moves are a regular aspect of life for military-connected children and families. Their individual experiences enrich their fellow students and their teachers as they recount their journey across the country or abroad internationally.

North Elementary School Veterans Day Parade
According to U.S. Department of Defense data, of the 2.1 million military personnel serving America, 38 percent were either single parents or married and raising children, accounting for 1.5 million military children aged 0 to 18-years-old. Of these children, nearly three-quarters fall in the age range of 0 to 11 years old, and 56 percent range from 6 to 18 years old.

U.S. Department of Education data shows more than 80 percent of military children attend public schools. Additionally, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) reports more than 79,000 military-connected students reside and attend public schools across the Commonwealth.

PGCPS is proud to serve the educational needs of military-connected students and families of U.S. military service members stationed at Fort Lee, where approximately 70,000 soldiers are trained annually, according to the U.S. Army's data. During the 2021-22 School Year, the division's total enrollment was 6,164. Of these students, 1,850, or 30 percent of PGCPS' enrollment, are children of military-connected parents and guardians. 

The school district works closely with Fort Lee and the VDOE in developing programs focused on delivering resources and support for our military-connected families. Over the past three years, four PGCPS schools have been named Virginia Purple Star Schools for their commitment to serving students and families connected to the military by the VDOE and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on the Educational Opportunity for Military Children. These four schools are North Elementary and L.L. Beazley Elementary in 2019, followed by both David A. Harrison Elementary and William A. Walton Elementary in 2020.

The division also regularly holds events to honor the nation's military and remember fallen service members from our community. In November 2021, several schools, including North Elementary School, hosted Veterans Day drive-thru parades and special events coinciding with the holiday. During the event, United States Marine Corps serviceman Justin Howard was presented with a $10,000 gift from the Military Assistance Program and its founder Don Vtiple to help their family during the Christmas season. 

Additionally, each May, the students and staff of J.E.J. Moore Middle School comes together to host its annual Memorial Day tribute ceremony. The event has become a tradition for the Moore community, where they honor former student and fallen U.S. Army Captain Jesse Ozbat, who died in 2012 while serving in Afghanistan, alongside fellow soldier Tobias Alexander and the group's interpreter, and reflect on those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

J.E.J. Moore Middle Memorial Day tribute ceremony
“Our division’s mission is to engage, encourage, and inspire every child, every day, and that extends to our military students,” Division Superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff said. “Military children bring their unique life experiences to our students and teachers everyday, sharing stories that often bring distant locations right to our own backyard. Prince George County Public Schools appreciates the strong partnership it shares with Fort Lee, its personnel, and their families and celebrates Month of the Military Child with pride.”

“The Prince George School Board is pleased to have the collaborative relationship we share with Fort Lee,” Prince George School Board Chairman Chris Johnson said. “This strong relationship allows us the ability to work together to ensure our school division provides our military-connected students and their families with all the resources they need to succeed during their time with us. As a military child myself, I take special pride in opportunities to recognize our military families and it's an honor to join my fellow board members in celebrating Month of the Military Child.”  

"The Month of the Military Child theme for 2022 is 'Military Children Standing Strong and Proud,' USAG Fort Lee School Liaison Officer Chaundra Taswell said. "Military-connected students have been taught to be flexible, adaptable, and how to navigate the uncertainties. They really just tend to bloom where the military takes them. Their sacrifices, without a doubt, offer us, by example and strength, the difficulties they overcome being in a military family and their transient lifestyle, despite their unique challenges. 

Taswell continued, “I love the old saying, ‘It takes a village,’ and Prince George County Public Schools is part of that village of support. We thank our educators, staff, and school board members who play a special role in ensuring successful school transitions and serving our military-connected students.”

Throughout April, Prince George County Public Schools' Facebook page will highlight the important role of our military-connected students and families in shaping the culture of our school community, viewable at https://www.facebook.com/princegeorgeschools/. Our schools will also hold special recognitions to celebrate our military-connected students and families throughout the month. 

Additionally, PGCPS encourages the community to "Purple Up! For Military Kids" by wearing purple on April 20th, 2022, supporting military-connected children. The color purple signifies all branches of the U.S. military are supported - the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard.

To learn more about the Month of the Military Child, visit the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity website at https://www.dodea.edu/dodeaCelebrates/Military-Child-Month.cfm