“I have lived in a lot of different states, so I’ve experienced more,” Corporate Landing Middle School (CLMS) eighth-grader Chyanne Weber told First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe and other invited guests.
“I’ve lived in Georgia, Florida, California, Texas, Michigan, Oregon, Montana,” continued Weber. “I can’t remember all the others.”
“Can I just tell the Governor that you like Virginia best?” asked McAuliffe smiling and prompting laughter in the room.
“This is the longest I’ve lived somewhere,” added Weber of her three-year residence in the Commonwealth.
McAuliffe and military officials visited CLMS to speak with students who serve as Junior Student 2 Student (JS2S) ambassadors. JS2S is a program initiated by the Military Child Education Coalition to help schools create positive environments for military-connected children when they transition or depart to a new school.
McAuliffe acknowledged the difficulties associated with such moves.
“Some of you transfer within Virginia and some of you come from out-of-state or move to another state, and we recognize that those transitions really are a challenge,” McAuliffe told students. “Like the captain said, when you are happy, achieving and successful in school, then you are supporting not only your parents who are serving, but you are supporting the rest of our country. We recognize the unique sacrifices you all make when your parents are active duty military.”
Sacrifice, family and honor are themes of student artwork featured in The Art of the Military Child exhibit at Lynnhaven Mall, the next stop for McAuliffe on her April 6 visit to Virginia Beach.
McAuliffe spoke at the exhibit’s opening reception in the mall’s center court along with VBCPS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence and Captain Frank Hughlett, commander of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. The exhibit is the culmination of a contest open to all VBCPS students to which more than 560 art entries were submitted.
“Tonight showcases not just your talents, but also your unique experiences being children of the military,” said Spence. “Your work depicts deployments and homecomings, sorrow and joy, but above all reflects a sense of pride. Your pride in the service of loved ones, the personal pride of being in a military family and finally, the pride our community has in you.”
“Freedom isn’t free,” Hughlett told the crowd. “And no one pays a higher price than our men and women in uniform. Their children serve right alongside them. Think about this. If you were a freshman or sophomore in high school today and your father or mother is in the military, this nation has been at war your entire life. So on top of the moves, there’s that potential stress of going into a war zone and doing what we do.”
“That’s what makes art so important because art provides a window to the heart of these young folks,” Hughlett continued. “I encourage the parents to find your child’s artwork and talk about it with them. As a military father, and my kids are a little older now, but I look at this artwork and it hits me straight in the heart.”
Melina Drosinos, fourth-grader at Kemps Landing/Old Donation School, said her artwork honors her dad, his bravery and his service to our country.
In her artist statement Drosinos wrote, “I know that it is hard for him to leave my mom and I, but he is keeping this country safe by serving this country and keeping people safe. He is my hero and makes me proud.”
Jordan Hentrich, who is not a military dependent herself, created an illustration for her best friend Anne Sophie who had to move to Texas as a result of her father’s military orders.
“We did everything together,” wrote Hentrich in her artist statement. “I loved being in her class. But when I found out she was moving to Texas, I didn’t know what to say. On the last day of school, we had a giant group hug. I think I cried the most.”
Hentrich said she and Anne Sophie continue to keep in touch through texting.
Virginia Beach Middle School seventh-grader Morgan Ellis honored her mother’s service in the Navy with her artwork. The inspiration was a photo of herself at 15 months old wearing her mother’s uniform before a deployment. In the background, a map of various states shows where Ellis has lived as a military dependent.
“As a military child, I moved around a couple of times,” wrote Ellis. “It is hard for all military children to move and say goodbye to their family members. That is why I will participate in this competition for as long as possible.”
Ellis earned a second place award for her submission and was recognized with other award winners during the exhibit reception.
The Art of Being a Military Child award winners are listed below and artwork from hundreds of students is on display at Lynnhaven Mall through the end of April. To see more photos from the exhibit and opening reception, visit the VBSchools Facebook page.
Elementary School Level (Grades K-2)
First Place: Dominic Correa, Newtown Elementary School
Second Place: Sydney Kfoury, Christopher Farms Elementary School
Third Place: Emma Nadal, John B. Dey Elementary School
Honorable Mention: Olivia Greene, Christopher Farms Elementary School
Elementary School Level (Grades 3-5)
First Place: Cayliegh Snowden, Arrowhead Elementary School
Second Place: Daniela Rubiano, Christopher Farms Elementary School
Third Place: Xander Logan, Trantwood Elementary School
Honorable Mention: Arpan Das, Centerville Elementary School
Middle School Level
First Place: Serenity Street, Virginia Beach Middle School
Second Place: Morgan Ellis, Virginia Beach Middle School
Third Place: Paloma Santos, Virginia Beach Middle School
Honorable Mention: Rachel Ruhl, Great Neck Middle School
High School Level
First Place: Erika Burkle, Salem High School
Second Place: Eleonora Giancarli, Princess Anne High School
Third Place: Sonnet Garcia, Salem High School
Honorable Mention: Hailey Kirschman, Bayside High School