The junior high years can be difficult for any child. But for military children, there are some additional challenges with constant moves, deployments, changes in school requirements and other things that keep the academic environment from remaining stable.

Thanks to a grant from the Department of Defense, life for students from S.C. Lee and Copperas Cove Junior high schools just got a little easier. Select students participated in the Junior Student to Student training, a program for civilian and military-connected students designed to welcome new students to Copperas Cove Independent School District and support their transition to one of the two junior high campuses, said Maggie Velarde, S.C. Lee guidance counselor.

“This was an excellent training that will enable us to welcome new students and help them feel less anxious about transitioning to a new school,” Velarde said.

Participants were nominated by their teachers, and alongside counselors and staff, were trained on methods to support students relocating to one of the two schools. Trained students will recruit and train others in the program this fall after school starts. The program’s focus is student-led and student-centered, under the supervision of campus staff.

S. C. Lee seventh-grader Makai Goudeau feels prepared to serve in a mentor role. “I loved the training because I like that I get to help the students coming in and I like that we got professionally trained on how to do it.”

Stressing the core values of service, leadership, communication and teamwork, participants learned to address the challenges faced by students as they transition. Trainers from the Military Child Education Coalition also taught the JS2S students to identify and apply the four key issues of academics, finding their way, relationships and acceptance and adapt it to their unique school environment.

S.C. Lee seventh-grader Ishmael DeLaCruz believes an orientation for the incoming students will be extremely helpful in them having a positive transition.

“I want to use this training to help the new people coming to Cove understand on how our district functions and what we do here,” DeLaCruz said.

At the end of training, students developed a campus action plan that included who they wanted committed to the plan, their possible marketing and advertising for the program, what resources they needed and would use, and a schedule of their future activities.

The JS2S training was funded by the Copperas Cove DoDEA II Grant, Project Reads. Two of the grant’s goals focus on the social and emotional support of transitioning students. The goal of JS2S training is to make change less difficult for these students, teaching participants to be better listeners and establish accepting and trusting relationships.

The DoDEA II grant covers the campuses of House Creek Elementary School, Hettie Halstead Elementary, Fairview/Miss Jewel Elementary, Williams-Ledger Elementary, Copperas Cove Junior High, and S.C. Lee Junior High. The grant provides $1.5 million over five years to CCISD.

The project goals include improving academic achievement in reading for military dependents in kindergarten to fifth grade, and expanding student support services for military dependents in kindergarten to eighth grade. Military connected students comprise 26 percent of the student body at the six grant campuses.

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