WIESBADEN, Germany — A Wiesbaden school and community partnership, led by U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden school liaison officer Peter Witmer, earned top honors at the 12th annual Military Child Education Coalition Conference July 22.
Wiesbaden's ongoing partnership project was recognized with the 2010 Outstanding Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award during a ceremony led by Texas U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards at National Harbor, Md..
"Each of these recipients has brought together a variety of stakeholders in their community," said the Texas congressman, in congratulating the Wiesbaden team and five stateside projects also recognized for community partnership initiatives.
In quoting retired Army Lt. Gen. H.G. "Pete" Taylor, a former chairman of MCEC, "goodness happens at the local level,"
Edwards explained that the annual awards established in 2004 recognize partnerships that serve as role models in promoting outstanding partnerships between military installations, school districts and local communities.
"I can't think of anyone who deserves our respect more than our service members and their military families," said Edwards, praising the efforts of dedicated volunteers, educators, the members of MCEC and everyone else involved in "working together to make a difference in countless lives. You have done more for our unsung heroes, hundreds of ways that you are making a difference in the lives of our military families."
During the weeklong MCEC conference, educators, schools officers, administrators, military and civilian leaders gathered to share insights and seek solutions to the many educational and emotional challenges facing military youths.
Participants from around the globe attended workshops, shared success stories about programs such as "Student 2 Student" and efforts to change legislation to better serve military special needs children. They also had an opportunity to hear senior military and civilian leaders discuss student resilience in the face of ongoing deployments, a push to establish common core standards in education and testing in schools across the United States and ways to instill values in the leaders of tomorrow - many of whom will follow their parents into the military.
"I really do believe that the most important things we can give to our children as parents are values and education," said Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, during a panel discussion including senior leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Air National Guard and U.S. Department of Education.
During a session on Army school support services, Army Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Installation Management Command, called on those involved in the education of military children to help identify successful programs and those areas where improvements are needed.
"Today we are spending $2.1 billion on Army family programs. It's important that we're not redundant," said Lynch. "You need to help us identify which programs are working and which aren't."
Lynch also said military parents should have a "reasonable expectation" of finding similar standards of education for their children as they move from place to place in the service to their nation.
During the conference, which this year was themed "Today's Children, Tomorrow's Leaders," participants also had a chance to meet industry representatives showcasing the latest in educational technology, support and assistance. One such featured tool was the Schoolquest.org website which gives military parents an insightful look at schools across the United States.
"The revamped Schoolquest.org website helps families find out about the right schools for their children when they move from place to place," said Dr. Mary Keller, MCEC president and chief executive officer.
Another featured support tool was a package of educational materials produced by the Sesame Workshop - books and videos aimed at helping families cope with the loss of a loved one titled "When Families Grieve." Melvin Ming, Sesame Workshop's chief operating officer, said the materials are aimed at "letting the voice of the child be heard ... giving children tools to help them hope and grow."
"To meet the challenges of raising a military child today we have to broaden our sense of community," said Alma Powell, chair of America's Promise Alliance and children's book author and wife of retired Army Gen. Colin Powell.l "(Powell) He could not imagine this 25 years ago. It requires all of us to provide the support of young children to help them learn and grow. How are we to know what students need unless we listen to what they have to say? Every time we make an investment in a young child we are defending America's future."
During the conference participants also heard words from First Lady Michelle Obama via a video message, Patty Shinseki and the event's closing speaker, Dr. Jill Biden, a teacher with a Doctorate in Education, activist for military family and women's health issues, and wife of Vice President Joe Biden.