Clements/Parsons Elementary School counselor Julie Armstrong served as a military spouse for 23 years and sent her oldest son to seven different schools in his first 12 years of public education. Constantly moving, military children experience being “the new kid” repeatedly throughout their elementary and secondary careers.

“I can only imagine how my son would have been thrilled to be welcomed and included on his first day at each of the schools he attended,” Armstrong said. “The main mission of the Student 2 Student Program at Clements/Parsons Elementary is to welcome all students, although it also benefits the militarily connected ones, to our campus.”

The S2S Program brings military and civilian students together to welcome incoming classmates, create positive environments, support academic excellence, and ease transitions for military-connected students around the world. Clements/Parsons Elementary School counselor Audrey Trahan said it is the students leading the program that make it effective.

“The success of the program is mainly because of the student buy-in,” Trahan said. “They are the ones that do most of the leg work and ensure that every new student on our campus feels welcomed and accepted.”

While S2S is a student-led program, teacher support is vital as well. There are often times when students must leave class to attend S2S activities. Teachers allowing the absences and working with the S2S students to make up work is vital both to the program’s success and the students’ academic success.

“By welcoming every new student that came to our school and showing him around the campus, S2S students developed communication, leadership, and community skills,” Trahan said. “It also helped the new students feel like they instantly had friends at their new campus.”

During the past school year, S2S could not meet as a group due to COVID-19 safety regulations. Students and staff got creative and developed an online forum in CCISD’s learning management platform — Schoology — where S2S students could exchange ideas.

Principal Katherine Baney said the S2S program reinforces the school’s priority of building relationships with students.

“A positive atmosphere and strong relationships enable students to achieve, both academically and socially,” Baney said. “My goal for the campus is to continue to build a culture of kindness and inclusivity. S2S embodies the principles I strongly believe in including acceptance, connections, and relationships.”

Clements/Parsons Elementary is one of three elementary schools across the nation to be named a finalist for the Military Child Education Coalition’s annual Elementary Student 2 Student Team of the Year Award. Rocky Mountain Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Whiteman Elementary School at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are also in the final three schools competing for the national honor and both have won in previous years.

The national winner will be announced at the MCEC national conference in mid-July.

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