So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Social work interns help military family students in 140 schools

Military Kids Feature - 1

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Military children at Santa Margarita Elementary School at Camp Pendleton point out which states they've lived in, before a meeting on Monday, Oct. 22 for newcomers to talk about what it's like to move a lot.

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Principal Pat Kurtz asks newcomers to Santa Margarita Elementary School to raise their hands. Kurtz said the school receives up to six new kids each week.

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Teacher Christina Fossel asks each student to describe in one word what it feels like to move. "Sad," said third grader Gabriel Rethlake.

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Third grader Litzy Vega walks into a classroom with teacher Christine Fossel, before a Newcomer Ambassadors meeting. The meetings help new students connect with "ambassadors," students who have spent a year or more at Santa Margarita.

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Natalia Williams, left, Brynn Weathers, and Kyleigh Fradelis walk to class together. Making friends at a new school as a military child can be difficult, as Principal Pat Kurtz says there is a lot of turnover.

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Students can put up photographs on the Hero Wall, of their parent in the military. Kids say it's comforting to see their parent on the wall while at school everyday.

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USC teaching intern Christina Fossel hopes to help military kids with the transition into the school, and the difficulties that come with parents' deployments. Fossel's fiancé is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

For three years a professor of social work at USC has helped to educate a small army of counselors who work with kids in military families at schools and other agencies. Educators admit that this segment of the public school population is woefully underserved.

At Santa Margarita Elementary School, about six new kids arrive and six leave every week. All of them come from families in which at least one parent is in the military.

Christina Fossel leads a half-hour workshop for about two-dozen third graders. Some just started at this school. Others have been here  longer.
“My name is Maria, first year here and I was in Okinawa, Japan… My name is Gwynn. I used to live in North Carolina…  My name is Amy, and I moved from El Paso, Texas,” the students introduce themselves.

RELATED: USC program trains counselors to help students in military families