Local Communities, USO Work Together to Help Military Children Across U.S. Southeast Put Best Foot Forward as School Year Begins

Throughout the U.S. Southeast, USO Centers have implemented Back to School programs and activities to help military families by working with local partners to provide school supplies and special programs and events to children of service members, enabling them to put their best foot forward and get excited to go back to school.

Summer is the highest volume of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves for America’s service members and their families. This often means that military children start the school year with new classmates, unfamiliar environments and teachers, complicated by limited time for the family to prepare, move and acclimatize to their new location.

USO backpack and supply events support families and provide military children with a platform to connect to their new classmates and community before the first bell rings.

On top of rapid deployments and frequent moves, military children are faced with some of the same back to school jitters as their non-military affiliated peers. In addition to worrying about who they will sit next to during lunch or what teacher they will have this year, military children may also be faced with one or both parents being deployed and have a lot to contend with as they head back into the classroom.

Each year USO centers, with support from their local partners, distribute backpacks and school supplies to military families throughout the U.S.

As the 2022 school season began, USO Northwest Florida, in partnership with local partners distributed 175 backpacks full of school supplies to local military families stationed near Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., and U.S Coast Guard Station Corry Station.

“Our relationship with our local partnership is important to our junior military families as they prepare to send multiple kids back to school,” said Cat Lysek Center Programs Manager, USO Northwest Florida. “For some of these families it’s the first time they have school age children. This is always a fantastic opportunity for our USO team to help get the kids ready to head back to school.“

The school supply bags were customized per grade level with essential school supply items including writing paper, folders, binders, pencils, hand sanitizer, markers, crayons and color pencils, scissors, and other essential school items.

“It was incredibly helpful for my family to have a place to get school supplies for my youngest child who is about to enter kindergartener,” said Joy Alston, an active duty military spouse, and busy mother of two who works full-time.

USO Fort Campbell/Nashville held a Flapjacks and Backpacks event, providing a tasty breakfast and school supplies graciously donated by their local partners.

“At Fort Campbell, with the number of deployed troops, connection programs are important, said Eva Nicol, Senior Operations and Program Manager, USO Fort Campbell/Nashville. “To see the look on the kids faces as they created their own pancake masterpieces was indescribable.”

“Thank you so much for this event. My kids are still excitedly organizing and reorganizing their supplies in their backpacks,” said Lydia Davis a military spouse whose family attended the Flapjacks and Backpacks event.

“Another special piece was being able to connect numerous community organizations into this program,” said Nicol. “We had the Christian County Military Affairs Committee there volunteering, alongside the Travis Manion Foundation (Clarksville chapter) stuffing backpacks, the Knights of Columbus flipped the flapjacks and the Hopkinsville Tourism team creating pancake art.”

Meanwhile in North Carolina, USO North Carolina is hosting a Virtual Back to School Bingo night August 18, for families to unwind and have fun, while playing for a chance to win prices.

DeAnna Pazdyk contributed to this feature.

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