USC’s Partnership with Local Schools that Helps Military Kids Wins Award

Professor Ron Astor, third from right, accepts the 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award from the Military Child Education Coalition in Washington, DC

The Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools project, a partnership between the USC School of Social Work and eight public school districts in San Diego and Riverside counties working to create sustainable models of supportive schools, has received a 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in the category of Exemplary Higher Education Partnerships. Given by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), the award was presented at this year’s National Training Seminar in Washington.

The honor recognizes outstanding teacher preparation programs and celebrates collaboration among higher education institutions, public school districts and military installations.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Building Capacity Consortium were Ron Astor, USC professor of social work and education; Bonsall Union School District Superintendent Justin Cunningham; Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo; Diana Pineda, the Building Capacity project manager in San Diego, and Monica Esqueda, a doctoral candidate in the Rossier School of Education. Fatimah Dozier of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) was also present at the ceremony.

The Building Capacity initiative has sought to increase awareness of military-connected students in public schools while also giving future school social workers, psychologists and counselors practical experience in Consortium schools.

Escobedo said it was a "great honor to be recognized."

"The Chula Vista Elementary School District’s motto states that 'Every child is an individual of great worth,'" he said. "Our efforts in the past four years have assisted countless military children and their families to be part of our cultural ideals by establishing systems that have mitigated the social-emotional pressures accompanied by deployment and have heightened the awareness of our educators to promote a nurturing and safe learning environment."

The partnership, funded by a grant from DoDEA, has also involved using data to better understand the strengths and needs of military students as well as implementing intervention programs to make schools more supportive and military-friendly.

The Building Capacity Consortium will be featured in a special MCEC publication to encourage similar partnership efforts across the country.

The partnership award program was created in 2004 to recognize former MCEC Chairman Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Taylor for his work in supporting highly mobile military children.

“MCEC proudly salutes the remarkable difference that these schools and military installations are making in the lives of military children,” said MCEC Executive Director Mary Keller. “By partnering in unique and innovative ways, these military and education leaders follow the example set by General Taylor and remind us once again of the impact that we as a community can have on each military child.”