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Providing Academic and Social/Emotional Support For Military Students

During Military Families Month, we recognize the service of family members as well as the solider. There are unique stressors on military spouses and children that many may not see. We're grateful to NMSI Program Manager Travis Hester for sharing some of his story.

As a military child in a family of five, Travis Hester was born in Germany while his father was stationed at a U.S. Air Force base there. His family would move six more times by the time Hester was in 8th grade. 

“Adapting was crucial to my survival,” says Hester.  “We integrated into a new community every couple of years. By age 13, I had lived in two different countries, four different U.S. states and seven different cities.”

ADAPTING IN SCHOOL

Military students come to expect that they will change schools often. What isn’t foreseen is the effect these moves will have on a student's academic progress. “I didn’t have support systems in place that focused on my academic trajectory between states and between districts. This lack of academic support possibly led to little - if any at all - encouragement towards Advanced Placement classes.” 

Despite this, Hester credits his 6th grade math teacher whose teaching style made a lasting impact.

“I remember when we were stationed at Homestead AFB, Florida and I started going to this public school off-base. This teacher’s style helped me learn and process mathematical patterns. Understanding patterns continued to help me as I got older – even in non-math subjects.” 

It’s because of this teacher’s influence and his resulting high math scores that he chose to take AP Calculus. Hester went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Studies from Armstrong Atlantic State University and an MBA from Georgia Southern University.

ADAPTING AT HOME

While doing his best to balance life at school through multiple transitions, life at home presented a different challenge that was completely out of his control. 

“As if moving all the time was not hard enough, my mom had struggled during most of my childhood with a drug addiction,” says Hester. “I remember getting more attention at school for being a child with a substance abuse parent than academic support because of multiple school changes due to the military.” 

Educators who’ve worked with military students or have first-hand experience as a MilKid understand the need for social and emotional support in schools. 

In Hester’s case, the story does get better. “The cool part of our story is that the situation is better now. My mom, dad and siblings are all good. We’re truly a big happy family but that wasn’t always true.”

Now as a married father of three, Hester reflects on what he would say to students dealing with similar situations. “I would tell kids that as hard as it is, as painful as your struggles are, they are not your fault. So first, let yourself off the hook. Second, you got to start seeing yourself as a person who can change your future, despite the people and circumstances around you. That is within your power and control.”

When teachers and administrators work together to create a school culture that supplies both academic and emotional support, that environment can have a lasting impression on military students. It is a long-term commitment for student growth and success that, as we see in Hester’s story, works. 

Learn how NMSI works with military-connected schools to strengthen academic support through Military Families Mission