Maumee High School Supports Military-Connected Students

For the Month of the Military Child, students at Maumee City Schools embraced the themes set forth for the Ohio Military Family Spirit Week. Maumee High School counselor Courtney Gilts (left) is joined by military-connected students (from left) Addison Stamm, Haley Ogden and Mia Mitchell in their green clothes. MIRROR PHOTO BY KRISTI FISH

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — April is Month of the Military Child, and Maumee High School students and staff members have aimed to recognize military-connected families along with the rest of the state of Ohio.

As a Purple Star-designated district, the Ohio Department of Education & Workforce recognizes Maumee City Schools as showing a major commitment to students and families connected to the military.

“It’s not just the person who’s enlisted with the military,” explained MHS counselor Courtney Gilts. “It’s important to remember the families and how they’re affected and keep that in mind and just be aware of it when working with them. It’s all the hidden things you might not realize if you’re not in it yourself.”

As a reservist with the Army National Guard, Gilts understands the unique situations these students and their families face and assisted with drawing attention to Ohio Military Family Spirit Week, calling for students and staff to dress up in certain colors during the week of April 15-19.

Students and staff wore purple for #PurpleUpOhio on April 15; red, white and blue on April 16; their favorite military branch on April 17; camouflage or green on April 18; and red – to remember everyone deployed – on April 19.

Announcements were also made throughout the week about the Month of the Military Child and signs were hung to encourage students to show their support.

“This is Ohio’s special week that they designate toward recognizing military families, so I just thought it was important we participate,” Gilts said.

Seeing classmates participate in the Spirit Week showed Haley Ogden that there are many people out there who care about her.

The sophomore, whose father and sister are part of the Air Force, has always been around the military, but she’s gotten used to the changes in schedules and missing her father.

“When I was a kid, him leaving had a much bigger impact on me. Now, having my sister go through basic training, that’s really weird not having her home, her leaving,” Ogden said. “It’s weird, them leaving and coming back, but knowing they’re doing a good thing for the country, I think that really helps with it.”

It also helps to have other family members, like her cousin Addison Stamm, who she can turn to.

A ninth-grader at MHS, Stamm’s dad is also with the Air Force, spending his time at the 180th Fighter Wing.

“As a military child, it can be really challenging when your family member has to leave because you never want them to go,” Stamm said. “My dad is in the Air Force and I’m very close to him, and I never want him apart from my family or me, so it is really challenging, but it can be rewarding.”

Having grown up witnessing the military-connected community and meeting people through related events at the 180th has been a bonus, Stamm said.

With family members who sometimes must leave for days, weeks or even months at a time, though, it can add extra stress at home. Other family members and friends often pick up the extra load to make it possible for military members to leave for trainings or deployments, Gilts noted.

“When one parent is away and you’re relying on them to be there, it’s extra stress you might not recognize,” Gilts said. “It all trickles down to other people. It’s just good to be aware of what everyone else is going through.”

For sophomore Mia Mitchell, whose dad is a reservist with the Army National Guard, her uncle and grandma have had to help her and her younger siblings, shuffling them back and forth to activities when her dad is away.

“They’re just good support. I always am able to talk to them. They’re the same support for my siblings, and it means a lot,” Mitchell said. “My other set of grandparents are good help, too, because they live up on Devil’s Lake, so there’s a lot of fun for (my siblings) to have up there.”

Having others to rely on is always important, the girls added, whether it’s friends at school who understand when their parents are away, other military families who can talk about similar experiences or even just family members who are willing to provide distractions during deployments.

One Christmas, Stamm said both her and Ogden’s dads were gone, so their moms planned a trip to help distract them and provide them with something to look forward to, rather than spend their days focused solely on what they were missing.

“Our moms worked really well at keeping us busy, so we still missed them, but it didn’t hurt as much,” Stamm said.

At the end of the day, though, it’s a privilege to have a dad who you’re proud of, Mitchell noted, even when the experiences might not always be easy.

“I still have to be optimistic about it. At the end of the day, he is going to come home,” Mitchell said.

As long as people are spreading awareness and understanding the different challenges that each person faces, Gilts’ goal for the week will be accomplished.

With 225 Maumee City Schools students who are considered military-connected, which means they have a parent or legal guardian in the military or who is a veteran, a large portion of the student body needs additional support specific to military-connected challenges.

“Any little bit that we can raise awareness, I think it’s important for them to do that,” Gilts said.

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