CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The First Coast is home to thousands of military families. Many of them move to the Clay County area, especially Oakleaf and Fleming Island. Roughly one in four students is from a military family in those communities.
In 2010, the district applied for a grant through the Department of Defense to see about getting money to start new programs in the district. They were first awarded a grant in 2011. One of the goals of the was to make sure the new students felt connected to kids who were already at the school.
"A lot of studies have shown, if a student is not connected in two weeks of coming to the schools, they tend to fall in with crowds of students who may not be their best choices or they make poor decisions on gaining attention," said Clay County Military Liaison Specialist Tina Baker.
Her role, is one that not a lot of districts have. She has been instrumental in getting these programs up and running. One of the resources available to students is a student to student ambassador program. It pairs the new student up with an established student to help them around the school and classrooms. This also allows them to get connected to different clubs in school and around the community. She says, so far, it's paid off.
"We were able to track our students absentee rates and noticed as soon as we can get these children and students connected with their community, they tend to attend school more frequently," said Baker.
She says that military families have unique situations from other students. A parent might be deployed overseas or dealing with an injury. The grant also allowed them to place life councilors in the schools to help students.
"Life councilors are able to pull these students together and provide resources and interventions to help them deal with feelings they're having that interfere with making good decisions. and resolving issues of grief and anger," said Baker.
At Orange Park High School, there is a resource center for parents to learn more. It's on the right side of the building.
There's also a block on the student registration forms that you fill out that signifies you're a military family.