Richmond Elementary in Ridgecrest Honored for Support of Military Families

Monday April 15, 2024

Like most military families, the Wilsons move around a lot. Kelsey, Dallas, and their two young daughters relocated from Oak Harbor, Washington, to Ridgecrest last year.

Kelsey landed a first-grade teaching position at Richmond Elementary, where the couple’s girls enrolled as first and second graders. Dallas is Chief Aviation Ordnanceman at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-31 on NAWS China Lake.

“Military children, on average, relocate every one to four years,” said Michael Yancey, principal of Richmond Elementary School, which is situated on the base.

Due to these frequent transitions, military children face more challenges than their non-military peers. Developing new relationships and adapting to new course offerings, academic standards, and schedules that may differ from one school to the next can add stress.

The Wilson family.

A “purple up” celebration was held at Richmond Elementary on April 15.

“They also have to adjust to different local and sometimes national cultures each time they move and adapt to new norms again and again,” Yancey said.

Richmond Elementary has implemented a comprehensive support system tailored for military-connected students and their families to address these challenges head-on.

At a community celebration Monday, the school was honored as one of California’s newest Purple Star Schools, which is bestowed upon those that seek to reduce the burden on military-connected students and their families. The school became one of just 127 statewide to be recognized by the California Department of Education. Last year, five schools in the Muroc Joint Unified School District in North Edwards received the Purple Star designation for their efforts.

Richmond Elementary recognizes that military students often have gaps in their education due to the time needed to transition between duty locations, Kelsey Wilson says, and the staff is well positioned to identify the unique needs military students face and work with families to ensure students’ needs are met.

A designated point of contact (POC) is at the heart of the school’s support system, facilitating seamless communication and support during transitions.

“The POC not only participates in professional development activities but also coordinates specialized training for school staff to better understand and address the needs of military children,” Yancey said.

The Anchored4Life transitional program is also central to Richmond’s support network. The student-led initiative helps foster social connections, leadership skills, and resilience among military-connected youth. This program extends a warm welcome to newcomers, easing their integration into the school community.

“My daughters have had a positive experience with their recent transition to Richmond,” Wilson said. “They have welcomed them with open arms.”

The Wilson girls pose for a photo as they welcome their father home from deployment.

Military-connected students also must endure parent deployments and the emotional toll of having a parent absent for months on end. Kelsey witnessed this firsthand in Washington when Dallas was deployed for most of the school year.

“This can often take a toll on their ability to focus on school,” Wilson said.

At their previous school, the Wilson girls were invited to attend a deployment support group with other students whose parents were deployed. At Richmond, various similar educational support resources are readily available, including access to counseling sessions guided by a tailored curriculum that aims to nurture the social-emotional well-being of military-connected students.

“I’m so proud that Richmond Elementary School, our first school to apply, has earned this award,” said district Superintendent Dr. April Moore.

She says the intent is to have each of the five Sierra Sands School District schools on federal land to eventually earn the Purple Star designation.

By Robert Meszaros

By Robert Meszaros

Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.