Buckhannon-Upshur High School Future Leaders Color Guard led Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance. Color Guard members include Commander Hunter Janke, Hunter Hannon, Braxton Claypool and Jeremy Smith. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Upshur County Schools seeking Purple Star Award status to support military-connected kids

TENNERTON – Upshur County Schools showcased their support of the U.S. military during the most recent Board of Education meeting at Buckhannon-Upshur High School by kicking off the gathering with the B-UHS Color Guard.

Those students included Future Leaders Color Guard Commander Hunter Janke, Hunter Hannon, Braxton Claypool and Jeremy Smith.

“These young men have stepped up and served as Color Guard for several events, including the FFA Banquet and the Friday football games,” B-UHS Principal Randolph West said. “I have been here for more than a year, and this is the first time we have had a Color Guard. I also want to thank Mr. Southerland. He has taken over the Future Leaders Class this year and has gotten these guys in line, and I want to thank him very much.”

West introduced the Color Guard before presenting students who have already enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces.

First, West recognized and awarded Upshur Stars to Clinton Crites, Cory Harris and Joseph Butcher, each of whom has enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard.

Next, West thanked Sgt. Holcomb, a recruiter in the area.

“Of all the recruiters we have, he is here often,” West said. “He comes in, and he talks to the guys and helps support them. He comes in and helps with the ASFAB and makes sure the kids have everything they need. I want to recognize him as an Upshur Star as well.”

West introduced Dalton Crites, who signed on with the U.S. Marine Corps and Tyler Hobbs, who signed on with the U.S. Navy.

The Upshur County Board of Education voted unanimously to approve and sign a resolution of support for active service personnel, veterans and their families in Upshur County.

Matthew Sisk, Upshur County Schools Director of Child Safety and Emergency Preparedness, introduced the resolution and said it is one of many steps that Upshur County is taking to purposefully support students who are seeking to enlist in the military; to support students and employees who have someone that is currently enlisted; and to help support students and families who previously had someone who was enlisted in the military.

“Every one of those steps has different and unique challenges before them, and we want to take purposeful steps as a school district and as a county to help enrich those relationships with the individuals around us, at both the state level and at a local level, to help make sure we can fulfill the needs of those families,” Sisk said. “This is one of many steps we are taking to become a Purple Star County. We are really excited about this, and it will enable us to have a point of contact in every school the help with military families at any level.”

Next, Sisk introduced Robert Mellace who he said would further explain the process. Mellace is with the West Virginia State Department of Education and is a facilitator with the West Virginia Common Ground Partnership. The Purple Star Award is a designation assigned to schools that display a special commitment to supporting military children and their families, according to the W.Va. Department of Education website.

“This resolution will be the 12th resolution of support in West Virginia for military-connected children,” Mellace said. “Your pursuit of the Purple Star is very significant. This is an initiative that started in 2017 in the state of Ohio and has expanded to 41 states across the nation.”

Mellace said the resolution would allow for the recognition of military support in the schools that creates a positive climate for military-connected children.

“It also ensures the schools have a point of contact – someone who is that one caring adult – that military families can go to when they are about to experience a military deployment, and they can say they really want to reach out to them to make sure the military person’s children is going to have the support they need,” Mellace said. “They can put people in contact with resources when they are feeling down or when they have issues during deployment. It is really about building that connection between the school and the military family.”

Mellace said the program also builds mutual appreciation between educators and military service personnel.

“We have speakers, and we just launched a care package for elementary children so when there is a child who is experiencing a deployment, an educator can request a packet of information specific to meeting the needs of that child,” Mellace said. “We are always thinking about ways we can assist with things like the ASFAB for adults and students.”

Mellace thanked the BOE for considering taking the action to become a Purple Star County.

“I think anything we can do to support children during military deployment or transitions is really great. We appreciate your leadership and wisdom in taking this first step,” Mellace said. “I do not think there is a better way to show support for Military Appreciation Month than by the steps you are taking today.”

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