Va. Guard Youth Program teams with ODU to assist military-connected children

Allison Mecadon, child and youth coordinator with Virginia National Guard Family Programs, provides information about the Virginia Guard Youth Program to teachers and school administrators at the Military-Connected Child Education Expo, Luncheon and Workshop July 10 at Old Dominion University. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Allison Mecadon (right), child and youth coordinator with Virginia National Guard Family Programs, provides information about the Virginia Guard Youth Program to teachers and school administrators at the Military-Connected Child Education Expo, Luncheon and Workshop July 10 at Old Dominion University. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

NORFOLK, Va. — Col. Walt Mercer, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command, was one of the featured speakers at the Military-Connected Child Education Expo, Luncheon and Workshop July 10 at Old Dominion University. Hosted by ODU’s Center for Educational Partnerships, the event was a chance for educators, administrators, military and military support personnel to come together to discuss the range of services offered to military children.

Representatives from the Virginia National Guard Youth program were also on hand to discuss their efforts in working with National Guard Youth. Other organizations represented in the workshops included the Military Child Education Coalition, Blue Star Families, Military One Source, Operation Home Front, Fleet and Family Services and the National Military Family Association.

Allison Mecadon and Drew Davis of the Virginia National Guard Family Programs office speak with Col. Walt Mercer, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command, at the Military-Connected Child Education Expo, Luncheon and Workshop July 10 at Old Dominion University. Mercer was one of the featured speakers at the event, which was an opportunity educators, administrators, military and military support personnel to come together to discuss the range of services offered to military children. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Allison Mecadon and Drew Davis of the Virginia National Guard Family Programs office speak with Col. Walt Mercer, commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command, at the Military-Connected Child Education Expo, Luncheon and Workshop July 10 at Old Dominion University. Mercer was one of the featured speakers at the event, which was an opportunity educators, administrators, military and military support personnel to come together to discuss the range of services offered to military children. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

ODU’s Teaching, Education and Advocacy for Military-Connected Students initiative is a collaborative partnership that endeavors to meet the needs of military connected families and students through its work with partnering organizations such as Military Child Education Coalition. They seek to transform schools and educational systems into military-conscious organizations in order to address all of the unique educational needs of children of military families, including family support, social-emotional support for children, and academic improvement in mathematics and literacy.

Mercer, who is a high school administrator in his civilian job, explained to the audiences some of the differences between the National Guard and active duty military and, as a result, some of the unique issues National Guard children face.

“I wanted to explain to them what the National Guard is, who we are and some of the unique situations of the National Guard,” he said afterward. “I was surprised at how much most of the audience did not understand about the National Guard, and I was impressed at the level of interest and the depth of questions that came from those in attendance. I was pleased to know that our community outreach effort really did inform and engage this diverse audience about the unique aspects of the Guard and our families.”

In preparation for his presentation, Mercer spoke to National Guard Soldiers and family members and asked them for some specific issues and problems they face. He then related some of those messages on to the audience.

The Youth Program’s involvement in TEAMS began with they assisted an ODU graduate-level class about National Guard-specific issues and resources, according to Allison Mecadon, child and youth coordinator with Virginia National Guard Family Programs.

“Our goal was to establish a partnership with them so we could better get into schools and connect to National Guard Youth,” she said.

“We hope to better identify and support National Guard youth in public schools,” added Drew Davis, lead child and youth coordinator with Virginia National Guard Family Programs. “And eventually inject resources and products into schools for them.”