By Stacy Huisman
FishHawk Creek Elementary (FCE) School has a unique after school club geared to a resilient group of students. The only requirement for membership is the student must be a military-connected kid.
The Military Kids’ Club at FCE is brimming with nearly 60 students whose parents are currently on active duty or retired in the United States Armed Forces. The group is led by second grade teacher and retired Air Force military spouse, Donna Gaines.
“There was a need to revitalize this club with the increasing number of military children enrolled at the school, says Gaines. “Forming a club is a way to emphasize support for each other in their constantly transitioning lives.” “Each student has a personal story of resiliency.”
One of the club’s important duties is to personally welcome every new student into their school. According to the Department of Defense, military students move an average of six times throughout their K-12 school education experience. These students know what it is like to be the new kid. As a club, they have spent hours painting FishHawk Rocks, writing letters and assembling personal welcome bags for new students who arrive.
Together with her volunteer parents, Mrs. Gaines hosts monthly meetings that connect and support this unique group of students. The club has recently hosted a Veterans Days Live FaceBook Event for parents deployed in war zones and foreign countries to connect with their children at the school’s event.
The Military Child Education Coalition’s Parent-to-Parent -Tampa (MCEC) hosted a special reading and science event for the Military Kids’ Club in January. Tell Me A Story is a national program designed especially for military-connected children and their parents. The mission of the program is to empower military children by using literature and their own stories to make strong peer and parent connections.
According to Hillsborough County Public Schools, the FishHawk community is home to the largest population of military families outside of those living at MacDill AFB. The Military Kids’ Club at FCE is proud to support the children of those who serve. Although they are too young to wear a uniform, the families know that they serve, too.