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NEWS | Nov. 27, 2013

JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio communities meet, discuss progress of school-unit partnerships

By Sgt. 1st Class Christopher DeHart Army North Public Affairs

Army representatives from Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston met with several local independent school district school staffs and superintendents at the Sam Houston Community Center for a fall luncheon Nov. 12.

The meeting, hosted by U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) as part of the Fort Sam Houston Adopt-A-School Program, served as an opportunity for those gathered to discuss the progress of, and the way ahead, for the school-unit partnerships.

The program is designed to develop a better understanding of the community's school system, fortify and improve school programs and curricula, and create a sense of personal involvement and more direct interaction between the installation and school staffs.

"It is a significant thing for military parents to remand the care and education of their children over to schools like theirs," said Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, in speaking of the trust fostered as a result of the partnership program. Wiggins is the commanding general of Army North and senior Army commander for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis.

"We get to come together and really impact the minds of those who will make the difference in the next generation," Wiggins said of the efforts of the relationship between the units and educators in the community.

Ten local schools, attended by students from JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Army units, each have a unit sponsor, including a new partnership this year between Camelot Elementary in the North East Independent School District and Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Installation Management Command.

The other nine schools and their partners are: Wheatley Middle School (San Antonio ISD) and the 32nd Medical Brigade; Cole Middle and High School (Fort Sam Houston ISD) and Brooke Army Medical Center; Pershing Elementary School (SAISD) and U.S. Army North (Fifth Army); Lamar Elementary School (SAISD) and the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command; Bowden Elementary (SAISD) and the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade; Washington Elementary (SAISD) and U.S. Army South; Wilshire Elementary (NEISD) and the 106th Signal Brigade and the 502nd Mission Support Group; East Terrell Hills Elementary (NEISD) and the 264th Medical Battalion; and Fort Sam Houston Elementary (FSHISD) and the U.S. Army Environmental Command.

Some of the events the schools have already conducted this year with their respective partners include career days, mentoring for different subjects, perfect attendance recognition, holiday decorations, lunch buddies, support for graduations, reading programs, field days and more.

Events such as lunch buddies and mentoring have been consistently popular with students in a majority of the schools and the hope is they will continue to grow.

Future events include an Easter egg hunt that Army North hosts for Pershing Elementary School students, the Angel Tree set up at the U.S. Army Environmental Command for Fort Sam Houston Elementary School students who may be in need of supplies during the year, as well as repeating the most successful and well-received programs, particularly sports events such as wheelchair basketball conducted at Cole Middle School and High School.

Other possibilities discussed ranged from radiology and health physics tours, to students dressing like a Soldier day, as well as a Christmas toy drive, a health fair, a beautification day and much more.

Partner units have unique capabilities and the capatility of tailoring programs for their schools, such as with USAEC and Fort Sam Houston Elementary School.

"We have a lot of unique scientific knowledge and expertise at our disposal," said Col. Mark Lee, USAEC commander, adding that his command is made up mainly of civilian personnel who have a focus on the environment and the sciences that go with it, such as entomology or toxicology.

The Army partners all agreed that they felt the interaction the Soldiers have with the children is what makes the most difference.

"In a world where there are so many distractions, when (the students are) young and growing up, just to let them know there is somebody who cares - someone who is going to take their time and sit and listen to them. That, I think, is the true gift," said Lt. Col. Zoltan Krompecher, commander of Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion, Army North.
Pershing Elementary School is Army North's partner school and Kathleen St. Clair, the school representative and principal, described the impact the partnership has had on the school just in the past year, citing that attendance has gone up and kids appear more motivated - particularly when they know partner events are coming up.

"We value our partnership, and I can't imagine what it would be like without it," St. Clair said. "The active participation (is great). When we've called them, they have come. They have supported us on so many events in the evening and during the day. The kids love them, and the parents are really appreciative as well."

"The return on your investment is actually bigger than you can imagine, and the influence on our Soldiers also will be very beneficial," Wiggins said.