Penn and Porter are Distinguished Purple Star Schools

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Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

Penn Elementary and Porter Traditional Schools have been named Distinguished Purple Star Schools.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on the Educational Opportunity for Military Children (Virginia Council) made the award. The designation is awarded to schools based on their commitment to meeting the needs of military-connected students and their families. The two Prince William County Public Schools are among 56 public and three private schools honored in Virginia.

Counselors and other staff at Penn and Porter work closely with military families to make the transition to a new school go smoothly. They starting with transferring educational records to learning about the curriculum. From special needs instruction to advanced academic programs and graduation requirements, the focus is on school and community resources that ease transitions for military students and their families.

“We designate a student mentor to aid in the peer transitioning of new military-connected students to support them socially,” said Porter Principal Kaitlyn Engelmeier-Foor. “For some students, moving to a new school can be difficult due to having to leave friends behind; support with transitioning at their new school can help ease the stress.”

Penn Elementary students seated on floor waving small American flags

Engelmeier-Foor and Penn Principal Elliot Bolles credit their success to, among others, Dominique James. She is the project director for the Department of Defense-funded grant that supports school programs for military-connected students. James trained staff to assist military families. Both schools provide small-group counseling tailored to meet the needs of military students experiencing a transition or deployment.

At Porter, grant funds provide technology devices and support summer programs, professional development, and science, technology, engineering, art, and math programs. Military-connected students receive certificates recognizing their sacrifices as military children on Purple Up Day during April, the Month of the Military Child.

Poster showing two pictures of Porter Traditional students wearing Purple tee-shirts sitting on curb

Penn Elementary School Administrative Intern LoriAnn Pawlik describes Penn as unique because all members of the administrative team are military-connected. They have either served on active duty or as military spouses. Penn assigns a “First Friend” to each new student.

“It is an honor to be able to support our military families,” Pawlik said. “We recognize our military through our Veterans Day ceremony and breakfast. We have a Purple Up! Club for all military-connected students in grades 3-5 to facilitate an easier transition into the school.”

Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni praised Purple Star schools in a news release from the Office of Governor Ralph Northam.

“As a former Marine, I recognize and appreciate the sacrifices required of each member of a military family,” said Qarni. “When we celebrate schools for their commitment to these military-connected students and families, we also celebrate and support the efforts of our Armed Forces.”

This is the first year the VDOE and the Council have designated Purple Star schools. Schools are selected through an application process.

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