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LAAFB, Neighboring School Districts Win National Recognition

(left to right) Retired General Thomas Schwartz, Military Child Education Coalition Board of Directors chairman; Teresa Barrow-Mohammed, 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; Elois McGehee, Los Angeles Unified School District; Essie Whitworth-Nurse, former 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; Melanie Arvonio, 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; and Dr. Mary Keller, MCEC executive director come together at the 10th Annual MCEC's 2008 Conference held at Grapevine. Texas, July 23. Los Angeles Air Force Base and local Los Angeles schools won the "Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award" for their outstanding joint venture in educational success for military children.

(left to right) Retired General Thomas Schwartz, Military Child Education Coalition Board of Directors chairman; Teresa Barrow-Mohammed, 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; Elois McGehee, Los Angeles Unified School District; Essie Whitworth-Nurse, former 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; Melanie Arvonio, 61 MSS Airman & Family Readiness Center; and Dr. Mary Keller, MCEC executive director come together at the 10th Annual MCEC's 2008 Conference held at Grapevine. Texas, July 23. Los Angeles Air Force Base and local Los Angeles schools won the "Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award" for their outstanding joint venture in educational success for military children.

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Students struggling with parents deployed to Iraq trying desperately to main equilibrium in a disorienting world. Coupled with students who are used to packing their bags and moving cross-country, or across oceans, before settling into new homes, all find themselves facing enormous challenges in their personal lives. Add to that the nerve-wracking experience of starting themselves into new schools, often time mid-year, and all of the above serve as a recipe for emotional and educational disaster. 

But not if a student is lucky enough to have a parent stationed at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., where the staff at the Airman & Family Readiness Center embraces each incoming family and serves as facilitators for all incoming students' and families' educational needs. So it really comes as no surprise, although it is indeed an enormous honor, that Los Angeles Air Force Base, in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District, El Segundo Unified School District, Wiseburn School District, and a host of other local school districts and private schools, was honored with the "Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award" at the 10th Annual Military Child Education Coalition's 2008 Annual Conference held at Grapevine, Texas, July 23. 

In 2004, the Military Child Education Coalition Board of Directors established this award to encourage partnerships between military installations and school districts. To be considered for this award, Los Angeles AFB and the local school districts had to give specific examples of partnership, show evidence of sustainability during times of stress, and exhibit strong collaborative ties between the military and school district to facilitate smooth transitions for military students. 

Col. Nannette Benitez, 61st Mission Support Group commander and School Liaison Officer for Los Angeles AFB, and Melanie Arvonio, Los Angeles AFB Community Readiness consultant, were delighted the base was distinguished with this award. Forty other American military installations around the world applied for this award and only three partnerships were honored for their excellence. The fact that Los Angeles AFB was honored as one of the three is incredible, especially since compared to all of the other installations, the base is relatively small. 

El Segundo Unified District's superintendent, Dr. Geoff Yantz, was equally pleased that the relationship his district has developed with the military base was acknowledged. 

"Military kids have to bravely face all the upheaval and change in their young lives that their parents' jobs demand. Anybody who has switched schools remembers the nervousness about entering an entirely different culture and being expected to rise to the occasion and thrive educationally. The fact that our district can partner with Los Angeles AFB and help pave the way for success for these students is the vital and integral part of our partnership - the award is really the icing on the cake." 

Another dimension of support was added to the alliance when Los AngelesAFB hosted the "21st Century Educational Summit" for an El Segundo Unified professional development day, October 29, 2007. Neil Howe, co-author of "Millennials Rising," served as keynote speaker, followed by a panel of community, business, military and educational leaders who addressed the needs of 21st century learners. Panel members spoke to the necessity of joining hands between private industry, the military and educational communities to turn out citizens capable of dealing with the globalization of the planet ethically, educationally, militarily and professionally. 

"El Segundo Unified firmly believes the way towards success for our students is building bridges of partnerships within our community," said Dr. Yantz. "I have to say that getting acknowledged with the Pete Taylor Award for forming these relationships delights me; because this venture is completely and totally about helping students succeed, which is why I'm in this business in the first place."