Above, Emma Adams and Carlos Caraballo are among the nearly 70 students at Leland Street Elementary School whose parents serve in the military.
The month of April honors the military child. Perhaps the best example of serving those students in L.A. Unified is Leland Street Elementary.
The school enrolls nearly 70 students whose parents serve in the five branches of the U.S. military, mostly at Fort MacArthur, located along San Pedro’s shoreline. Those kids account for 12 to 15 percent of the school’s enrollment. They are part of the nationwide total of roughly 1.8 million schoolchildren with parents serving in the U.S. armed forces, according to the Department of Defense.
At a recent school assembly honoring these kids, Leland students wore purple shirts to show their support while singing, “This Land is Your Land.” Two students with military parents spoke about their experiences poignantly.
Carlos Caraballo’s parents both serve in the Army. “I am proud to be in a family of heroes,” he said. Having lived in five states, he says he wonders if he will make friends at a new school. “At Leland, everyone talks to me and is my friend,” he said.
Emma Adams also said she is happy to be a military child but admits it’s getting harder to move from place to place because of friendships.
“Letting go of friends is hard but one thing you learn early on is that no matter how many friends you leave behind, you will always have your family to lean on,” she said. “My family has always been there for me, especially my mom.”
Typically, these children, by the time they graduate high school, have moved six to nine times, their lives a carousel of change: new schools, new teachers, new best friends. They often are packing up boxes to move or to unpack. The question facing each student: do they view their moving box, as a proverbial phrase, as half-full or half-empty?
It depends on the child, of course. Some thrive in schools while learning to play basketball in Belgium. reading books in the Philippines and writing software code in Texas. Others struggle with making so many life transitions.
The luckiest children have Mom and Dad’s support, and attend a school like Leland, which is designed to help them succeed in and out of the classroom.
All of Leland’s military children are matched with another buddy, for instance, who’s in the same grade and also comes from the same kind of household. The school has a social worker who helps students one day per week with social-emotional matters. There are numerous guest speakers. The students also help gather leftover Halloween candy for overseas troops, called “Packages for Patriots.”
Dr. Deborah Hayes, a professor at the University of Southern California and a leader in the L.A. Veterans Collaborative, a network of agencies that tries to improve life for veterans and military families, said that Leland is tops among District schools in supporting military-connected kids.
“Leland, under its expert administration and guidance, has grown to be an extraordinary example of a supportive and nurturing academic environment, striving to address the challenges that military connected students often face,” Hayes said.
“In April, the month of the military child assembly, was an amazing demonstration of its dedication and commitment to these students and their families. As a result, the whole Leland school community gains from this experience.”
But the school gets no additional funding for providing such services. Principal Lora Caudill-Iiams said she struggles with the budget for students, who are either well-adjusted or need help with adjusting to the change in their young lives. Almost all transition in and out before reaching the fifth grade.
As Sandra Meredith, the school’s social worker said, they “make sacrficies as heroic as their parents.”
Still, families give the school high marks for student achievement, Lora Caudill-Iiams, and her staff for making children feel welcome.
“There is a welcoming loving military family here,” said Shannon Butterfield, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard and whose daughter attends Leland. She spoke at the recent assembly.
“You come into Leland and realize you’re not the only military child here. You realize you have a voice and your voice is heard. When my daughters came here, the staff is one of the things I appreciated most.”
She expressed her gratitude to school’s leadership and staff for helping to create a campus culture that acts like “a family willing to embrace them.”
Students deliver speeches at assembly celebrating Month of the Military Child
My name is Emma Adams
My life as a military child has been a long hard journey.
I have made many friends, none of who I will forgot. I have had many places to call home, most of which I still do.
One of my favorite things about being a military child is knowing so many people who have lived all over the world and can relate to me. It is harder to move as you get older because your friends are closer and you could start having serious relationships. Letting go of friends is hard but one thing you learn early on is that no matter how many friends you leave behind, you will always have your family to lean on. My family has always been there for me, especially my mom. No matter where she is, she will always be there for me. Being a Military child may be rough, but I am glad I am one.
My name is Carlos Caraballo.
I am proud to say I am a military child along with my two sisters, Isabella and Elianna. My father is currently serving in the Army and my mother was in the Army.
I am proud to be in a family of heroes.
I have lived in 5 states, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, and California. The weather has been different in every state. I have sled in the snow and walk on the beach. I have been on long trips. I have met new people. One of my favorite things about being a military child is my Dad gets a military discount and sometimes free tickets.
One of the hard things is going to a new school, wondering if I will make friends and if the kids will like me. At Leland, everyone talks to me and is my friend. I like interacting with other kids in the Monthly Military Roll Call because they know what I go through. They know what it is like.
It is hard at times because when my Dad leaves I do not know what is happening or where he is at. Sometimes it is hard because he goes off to war. This year he will miss my birthday because he will be in Virginia. I remind myself it is okay because he is helping our country. Not everyone get to meet a real hero.
He is my hero and I am happy to say that.