Dr. Biden, Winnefeld Attend Military Child Support Event
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2012 Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, joined the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Newport News, Va., today to highlight efforts to help school children from military families.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., speaking to students at Lee Hall Elementary School where 42 percent of students are from military families, recognized local efforts to support “the sons and daughters of those who wear the cloth of our nation and serve alongside those in uniform.”
The event celebrated the anniversary of “Joining Forces,” a campaign Biden launched last year with first lady Michelle Obama to inspire all Americans to support military families. Today’s event focused on the nation’s 1.3 million military-connected school children and their unique circumstances of multiple moves and having deployed parents.
“You are the real strength behind the men and women in uniform, and you are the reason we serve,” Winnefeld, who was joined by his wife, Mary, told the students.
“We all know there are unique challenges and stresses associated with being a military child,” he said, “with Mom or Dad on deployment, moving from city to city, new schools, new sports teams, new friends.”
The admiral thanked Biden for the Joining Forces campaign, noting its efforts led to 41 states making it easier for military children to have school credits transferred from other states.
Winnefeld, who grew up with his father in the Navy, said his own sons have been in five school districts in six years. “I personally had the privilege of multiple tours in Norfolk,” he said, “and I knew my family was at home in a great community with neighbors like you, and my two sons were in a great school like this.”
Winnefeld called the Hampton Roads area, which includes Norfolk and Newport News, “the gold standard” for joint warfighting and for community partnerships with the military.
Biden said one of her “best parts in my role as second lady” has been to meet with military families around the country, who she said show strength, resilience and pride, but also the stresses of military life.
Biden spoke of her son, Beau, a Delaware National Guardsman who was deployed to Iraq and its impact on his two young children. Biden said she hoped more teachers would do special things for military children such as when her granddaughter’s first grade teacher hung a picture of Beau Biden in the classroom to remind students that their classmate’s father was at war.
She noted that the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition pledged to Joining Forces that they will enlist 100 teachers colleges to help teach future educators about the needs of military children in school.
“We’ve been so inspired by how Americans all across this country are taking action and giving so much support,” she said.
Biden announced that Education Secretary Arne Duncan today sent a letter to public school superintendents across country to give guidance to make sure schools are doing the best they can to support military children.
“You have made implementing the [Joining Forces] contract a top priority,” Biden told the audience. “You are doing everything you can to make sure our military students get the world-class education they deserve.”
The event highlighted numerous organizations that have committed to help in the education of military children. They include:
-- Reach Out and Read, which partners with doctors to promote reading and parental involvement with young children, and has committed to increasing its presence on U.S. military bases from the current 47 to 100 by the end of 2013. The commitment is expected to increase from about 90,000 to 200,000 the military children served;
-- Old Dominion University’s TEAMS (Teaching, Education and Awareness for Military-connected Students) initiative that collaborates with Newport News area schools to meet the needs of military children. TEAMS is developing a set of assessment tools called the “Military Consciousness Awareness Toolkit” -- or Mil-CAT -- to help schools determine strengths and needs for supporting military children and their families;
-- The National Math and Science Initiative, which is increasing a commitment it made when Joining Forces was created to bring Advanced Placement math and science courses to 29 public high schools serving military students in 10 states. Participating schools have seen a 57 percent increase in qualifying scores for AP math and science exams. The initiative -- with federal, corporate and nonprofit partners -- has pledged to increase its commitment to a total of 52 public high schools across 14 states by fall, serving a total of 90,000 students from military families; and
-- The Department of Defense Education Activity, which has awarded $180 million in partnership grants to public schools in support of more than 400,000 military children.