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Growing up in a Military Family

Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month based on the simple idea that our citizens should have the opportunity to publicly recognize the sacrifices and successes of American service members, past and present. Supporting military families by providing their children with the best possible educational opportunities is an important part of our mission at NMSI. During the month, we are highlighting perspectives of educators, active and retired service members and members of military families on the intersection of military life and STEM education. Today we’re featuring a Q&A with our own KJ Judie, who recently joined the NMSI family as part of our IT team. As the child of a 26-year military veteran, KJ is uniquely familiar with the issues facing the more than 2 million children of service members across the United States today.
Tell us about your background growing up in a military family.
My dad was in the Army for 26 years, before retiring as a Command Sargeant Major. My mom was a civilian, but worked as a Department of Defense employee for the Army as a nurse for 20 years. Growing up in a military family, you move around a lot. Looking back, it was an awesome experience. It gave me the opportunity to experience different cultures and meet all kinds of people.
There were always difficulties transitioning from one place to another, but kids in military families tend to be raised with a sense of being a soldier: you move on and keep going. And that really helped me build internal fortitude, which has served me all my life.
What was your experience like as a student?
The education experience for military-connected kids is definitely different from the experience most mainstream students have. I went to four different elementary schools, one middle school and four different high schools, which meant a lot of meeting new people and a lot of getting used to new environments and different school cultures.
In school, I was very interested in science and technology, and I was fortunate to have great teachers who encouraged me to integrate what I was learning into my life and continue to pursue my passion. I particularly remember my 7th grade science teacher, who taught me a lot about engineering and how things are built. I remember being fascinated by how much science and math are part of our world.
Of course, moving around so much, the quality of education wasn’t always consistent from school to school. There were times when I would go into a school and find that I was way ahead of the other students, so I would end up either getting tailored instruction from really dedicated teachers or just try to fill those gaps in myself.
As you know, NMSI is expanding our College Readiness Program for Military Families as part of our commitment to ensuring high-quality STEM education for the children of our service members.  Do you have any advice for teachers working with military-connected kids?
A lot of military kids don’t realize how integral STEM is to what their parents do at work every day. I know I certainly didn’t. So, for schools to tie that in to the way they teach – to teach them about how science and technology are part of jobs, all over but especially in the military – will help spark a different kind of engagement in those classrooms. I’ve seen so many of the military kids I was friends with growing up go into the military themselves. For those kids who are continuing the tradition of service, the STEM skills they acquired in school have formed the foundation of their careers.