Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, delivered remarks and participated in a roundtable discussion at the Davidson Conference Center Thursday with contributors involved in the education of military-connected students.
The USC School of Social Work hosted the event to highlight a four-year, $7.6-million program focused on researching and offering support for K-12 students with family members in the armed services. The Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools Program, now in its second year, is funded by the Department of Defense Education Activity.
“You are building bridges that connect military and civilian children, educate teachers and principals and provide the support our military children deserve,” Biden said.
Biden spoke about her personal connection to the project as a military mother. Her son, Beau Biden, was deployed to Iraq for one year.
“Beau has two young children himself, so I know firsthand just how important it is for a child to have the support of a community and school while mom or dad is at war,” Biden said.
Biden said her granddaughter’s teacher hung a picture of Beau Biden’s unit while he was deployed.
“Every day when she walked into her class, she would stop and kiss her dad, and all her schoolmates knew that her dad was away at war,” Jill Biden said. “I’ve heard over and over again how important it is that school can be a supportive environment for military children.”
USC started a military social work program in 2007, in part to respond to returning veterans, Vice Dean of the School of Social Work Paul Maiden said.
Anthony M. Hassan, a clinical associate professor and director, said the university has long worked with military veterans.
“The university has a military history through its ROTC program and it’s the only research university in the nation that has a military research social work program,” Hassan said.
Ron Avi Astor, the Building Capacity program’s principal investigator, said Jill Biden has been watching the program’s progress.
“She’s been following our stuff through newsletters, and she is trying to get the Joining Forces campaign people to get involved with it,” Astor said.
Following her remarks, Jill Biden participated in a roundtable discussion in which students, parents and educators shared empirical examples of how schools have helped military families.
Seventh-grader Kayla Felizardo spoke of joining a pride club for military students at Wolf Canyon Elementary School in Chula Vista, Calif. She started at Wolf Canyon last January after living in Japan for three years.
“We would just talk and express how we felt about the military and our experience on moving and making friends,” Felizardo said.
After the event, Jill Biden said the stories she heard from students and educators illustrate the type of support military families need.
“That’s so important and that’s what we want for military families,” she said. “That’s what Joining Forces is all about.”