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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2010

Airmen adopt area school classrooms

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

As four Airmen walked through the breezeway at Valley Hi Elementary School recently, they passed three small children.

"Are you in the Navy?" asked one of the children as they went by.

"No, we're in the Air Force," Master Sgt. Christy Hayes laughingly replied.

The Airmen made their way to Donita Montgomery's kindergarten class, where they were greeted by the lively sounds and warm reception of the 5- and 6-year-olds in the class. The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency Airmen were making their second class visit as part of the Joint Base San Antonio School Liaison Office's Adopt-a-School/Classroom Program.

The program's goal is to foster a better understanding of the community's school system, and create a sense of personal involvement and interaction for the military, the schools and the children.

"The whole point is to create a bridge between the military and the kids," said Lori Phipps, Lackland school liaison officer. "We hope that it grows and catches on. It's really making a difference in the kids' lives."

"They are great role models," Mrs. Montgomery said while watching the Airmen help her students make a red, white and green paper chain to hang around their classroom.

"I was so excited (for the classroom to be adopted) because my son-in-law (an Army major) is in Iraq right now," she said. "It keeps me connected to the military."

Senior Master Sgt. Shan Rockwell is one of AFISRA's points of contact for the school along with Master Sgt. Maria Esparza. They plan to make weekly visits to the kindergarten class with three or four Airmen from a pool of more than 30 base volunteers.

"It's a good thing to do," Sergeant Rockwell said.

The Valley Hi kindergarteners were the first class adopted by Lackland. It was quickly followed by the adoption of a fifth grade class at Five Palms Elementary School.

Two more classes, one at Scobee Middle School and the other at Lackland Elementary School, will soon join the growing list.

"Right now this is a baby; we're trying to nurture it," Ms. Phipps said about the program. "It offers the opportunity not to commit to a set amount of time every week.

"It can be every week, once a month or every other month - whatever is needed that works for both the class and the Airmen," she added.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Galan, a volunteer from the Lackland Airman Leadership School, likes the team concept the program presents.

"When Ms. Phipps offered the opportunity for an entire facility to adopt a grade level or a classroom, I thought, that's different," Sergeant Galan said. "Instead of doing the individual thing, we could be a team. It's awesome. We stress the importance of the team concept, and let them know we will be back and continue to show up as a team. We're going to do anything we can to help, and that's what I love about the idea."

He said in addition to stressing the team concept, the Airmen will also emphasize the importance of staying in school, getting an education and what it means for their future.

Sergeant Hayes has been involved in children's community projects before and knows the positive effect the Adopt-A-School/Classroom program brings to the table.

"I've been doing Read Across America and mentoring," she said. "The kids appreciate it and they look up to you.

"It's good to have military people giving back to the kids because then they associate 'good' with the military," she said.