Published December 4, 2014
By Jordan Yarbourgh, The Belton Journal
Belton Independent School District’s Student 2 Student program is looking at expansion since the percentage of military families in the area has been increasing over the last few years.
The Student 2 Student program trains current students to welcome new students in the area who come from a military or a non-military family, though it primarily focuses on military families.
“We want that skill-set to be used on any new student coming into Belton to help them understand what programs exist in Belton to help them or are available to them as a support system,” assistant superintendent for student services Merl Brandon said.
The percentage of military connected children in the district was only at five percent in 2010. Now it is at eight percent district-wide, while some schools are close to having 10 percent.
Families often look at the schools before they make their move to a new place. Some of the parents who attend meetings have mentioned that they did research before making their move and found out Belton had the best quality.
“Word of mouth and from family to family, the quality of Belton schools has brought other families here. I think what we will see is a continued growth in that percentage,” Brandon said. “Predominantly, it has been Killeen and Copperas Cove, but as the word gets out, I think we will continue to see families willing to make a little extra drive to be a part of the Belton school system.”
Not only are the current students accepting and welcoming the new students, they also volunteer their time to make sure the new students are comfortable while learning how to be leaders in the real world.
Belton High School has been involved in the Student 2 Student program for about seven years and has even had five different students selected for the Frances Hesselbein Student Leadership Program.
Only 10 students world-wide are selected to participate in the leadership program during the fall or spring for a week-long experience at the US Military Academy or the US Air Force Academy. The training involves developing youth leadership skills, patriotism, commitment to selfless service and problem-solving.
The students also make sure to put on different Student 2 Student events. Recently, there was a “Meet Belton Night” for military families.
All three of the middle schools have undergone training for the program and four of elementary schools — Lakewood, Sparta, Pirtle and Tarver — received a grant so they can now offer training. It is volunteer based and ranges from students to staff. The school is looking for more students who are enthusiastic and helpful to train for the program.
“As the military population grows, we want to make sure we are paying attention to that and we are not overlooking any of their needs. As those families choose Belton, we want to make sure as those students walk through the front door we can make them feel welcome,” Brandon said.