PWCS Grant Takes Military Families to Ball Game

| May 1, 2015 | 0 Comments | Education
Rob and Gabrielle are ready to pitch at the Potomac Nationals game.

Rob Walker and Gabrielle Wilborn are ready to pitch at the Potomac Nationals game.

To celebrate April, the Month of the Military Child, military families from three of Prince William County public elementary schools were invited to enjoy a free Potomac Nationals home game Monday evening at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge.

Students from Henderson Elementary in Montclair, Ashland Elementary in Manassas and Pattie Elementary in Dumfries, along with their parents and siblings were invited. The program provided a total of 600 discounted tickets, enough for all those military family members who wished to attend.

PWCS paid for it using the grant money it received to host a pilot program that would help ease the transition for military children and their families into the community.

PWCS has a high number of military families living throughout the community. Henderson, Ashland and Pattie just happened to the highest number of military families, so they were chosen to pilot the program.

Gabrielle, Emily and Rob were chosen as military children to represent their elementary schools.

Gabrielle Wilborn, Emily Hummel and Robert Walker were chosen as military children to represent their elementary schools.

Caroline Juba, Military Student Transitional Consultant, runs the transition program. She holds eight group meetings once a week for military children at their respective elementary schools. The lunch meetings create a safe space for the children to discuss their concerns, fears and differences and to learn more about the military. They also help those who are new to the school to transition into their new environment and make friends.

The program also reaches out to parents and siblings, holding informational and entertaining events throughout the school year. For parents and other family members, it helps them to connect with other military families thus easing their transition as well and providing them with a supportive local military community.

The Potomac baseball game was one of the most exciting events that the program held all year. Not only did families get to enjoy the game, but some students were very much a part of the action.

Rob prepares for the game.

Robert Walker prepares for the game.

At the game, three students, Robert Walker (Henderson), Emily Hummel (Ashland) and Gabrielle Wilborn (Pattie), participated in throwing the opening pitches.

Before the pitch, the children expressed being both “nervous” and “excited,” but when they took the mound, they all did a great job.

The Henderson Elementary Choir also sang the Star Spangled Banner on the field. Students and families who attended the game wore purple, the color representing all branches of the military and military families.

The children’s parents said they were pleased with the pilot program. Emily’s mother, Denise Hummel, said she had been working to bring something similar to Ashland to help military students when she learned Ashland had already instituted the pilot program.

Emily throws her pitch.

Emily Hummel throws her pitch.

“I learned about the grant when we moved back (to Prince William) in August. I was very pleased — pleased that they had selected her school in the two years [we had been away] and the grant was in place,” Hummel said.

The children also enjoyed the program. Fourth grade Henderson student Maggie Dotti said that she enjoyed the meetings with other military students at her school.

“I like the lunches and learning about the different military groups,” she said.

Henderson School Counselor Patricia Kreseski-Lisi explained the grant allowed counselors to implement some of the programs they wanted to do but did not have the extra funding or staff to make a reality.

“Having another person come in once a week and run groups for our military kiddos is really nice and for them to have time together too,” Kreseski-Lisi said.

The Henderson Elementary School Choir warms up their voices.

The Henderson Elementary School Choir students warms up their voices.

Additionally, the grant provided guidance with additional resources and iPads they could use in the classrooms.

Dr. Deborah Ransom, Director of Elementary Counseling, wrote the military grant that allowed her to hire Juba. She is also working on extending the program to schools throughout the county. Ransom has identified T.Clay Wood Elementary in Nokesville as another school that has a high military population and would benefit from the extended program.

“We are writing another grant. I’m working feverishly to expand to 31 schools to include middle schools and high schools that fit the criteria,” Ransom said.

Ransom also feels personally invested in the program.

“I’m a military spouse and a military grandma so all this is very near and dear to my heart. I’m happy with everything that Carolyn Juba has added. It was so nice to have been able to hire a person in school and to [have her] interact with parents.”

Henderson choir members perform before the Potomac Nationals crowd.

Henderson choir members perform before the Potomac Nationals crowd.

As for Juba, she hopes Prince William receives a full grant to expand the program to other schools.

“Children have seemed to enjoy the military friendship group,” said Juba. “It would be sad to see it end.”

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