Young people growing up in military families have unique needs. Frequent moves, parents who are sometimes away for long periods, and the general stress of having a family member in the armed services can create a burden on these children and youth beyond what is experienced by their peers.Additional support from schools and communities is needed to ensure that children from military families are poised for academic success. This support can take the shape of out-of-school programming or the addition of trusted adults into the school to serve as mentors and tutors for these young people.With a goal of helping students in Duval County, Florida, improve their reading skills and do better throughout the education system, Communities In Schools of Jacksonville runs a program that sends AmeriCorps members into schools to provide intensive one-on-one and
small group reading tutoring. Known as Duval Reads, the program was formed in 1999. More than 7,500 young people in the Jacksonville area have received tutoring through the program.
A special initiative of this program aimed at the needs of military children is called Duval Reads Engaging America’s Military, or DREAM. The DREAM project sends active duty servicemen and women serving in the Jacksonville area and veterans who live nearby into schools as volunteer mentors and reading tutors for young people from military families. While the program has several goals, the primary one is to improve the overall lives of military youth by providing assistance in literacy and mentoring.
Volunteers who participate in the DREAM project may visit schools for career days, Dads Do Duty lunches, and other events. Or they may serve as a regular tutor for young people with parents serving their country.DREAM volunteers are often particularly effective mentors for youth whose families are deployed overseas or are struggling to adjust to constant relocation. In many cases, the volunteers can connect what is happening in the child’s life to events that have impacted their own families.
The program has been a dramatic success, and students report feeling gratified by the opportunity to have these understanding adults as mentors and role models. As an added benefit, the volunteer opportunities that Communities in Schools provides to active duty service members and veterans through the DREAM project often leads to greater engagement in volunteeractivities throughout the Jacksonville community, including with other education projects. Many other communities across the country have large military installations and large populations of school children with parents in the armed services. The DREAM project presents a model of one type of support that can make a big difference in the lives of a community’s military dependent youth.
Contact Communities In Schools of Jacksonville for more information.