Between Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, the Naval installations in San Diego and March Air Force Base in Riverside, Southwest Riverside County is a big military community with thousands of service members’ children attending local schools.
The Murrieta Valley Unified School District serves approximately 2,000 children from military families with an active-duty parent in the schools. The Temecula Valley Unified School District has 2,831 military-connected students, district officials said.
With such a large military presence, the Murrieta district for the second year in a row is hosting a free Military Education Expo for all local military families to learn about the benefits and resources available to them. The Expo is from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Murrieta Mesa High School Performing Arts Center, 24801 Monroe in Murrieta.
All military families throughout Southwest Riverside County are invited regardless of where their children go to school or what school district they live in. Fliers on the Expo were sent to school districts in Temecula, Perris and Lake Elsinore so those districts could inform their military families about it.
About 75 people attended last year’s Expo, said Karen Parris, MVUSD’s Media and Communication Specialist.
“We’ve really become aware of the challenges military families face in terms of frequent deployments, when a parent is absent and the other parent is filling the role of both mom and dad, the special needs they have with child care, and integrating into a new community. People in the military move frequently and they may be well established in a community and have to start all over again,” Parris said.
“We’ve become aware of all those issues and do whatever we can to support those families and bring the resources the military has for those families.”
The MVUSD has a Military Support Advisory Committee with representatives at every campus.
The committee meets regularly and shares ideas for ways the schools can support and celebrate military families and service members, she said. Ideas include hosting a game night or story night; putting up a military parent Wall of Honor like the one in the Monte Vista Elementary School library; and hosting events to commemorate Veterans Day or 9/11. Vista Murrieta High School has hosted a Military Appreciation Night and Murrieta Valley High has a new Military Student Club.
“There are a number of things our schools are doing,” Parris said.
Experts at the Expo will speak about topics including the cycles of deployment, the availability of free resources available to military families and how military families can afford to send their children to college with the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Presenters will include school liaison officers from the United States Marine Corps, Navy and Family Forces, FOCUS, Exceptional Families Programs, Fleet and Family Program, Marine Family Program and the Veterans Administration. Agency representatives will answer individual questions and have brochures and information available to take home.
Here’s the schedule of sessions:
- Session 1: 6:15 – 6:25 p.m. Project FOCUS
- Session 2: 6:25—6:45 p.m. Family Forces Counseling Services
- Session 3: 6:45—7:05 p.m. Military Resources
- Session 4: 7:05—7:15 p.m. Exceptional Family Program
- Session 5: 7:15 – 7:45 p.m. Post 9/11 GI Bill (a survey taken of attendees last year indicated this was especially helpful in attaining college money.)
Free childcare will be provided for children ages 2 and up (children must be potty-trained.) Call 951-304-1623, ext. 2173, to make childcare reservations.