Medhavari “Annie” Singh had a path in mind on how to achieve her goals in her native India.
But all that changed when her father got the news he was going to be an International Fellows student with the U.S. Army War College Class of 2018.
“We were so happy ... so excited for him,” Singh told an audience of about 100 people gathered for the annual Excellence in Education Reception Monday at Carlisle Barracks.
As her mind processed the good news about her father, a realization came over Singh that big decisions were in the offing. Apprehension and confusion entered the mix of emotions.
“My mom had to give up her job,” Singh said. “I had to shift my senior year in high school. I had to leave all my friends and teachers behind.”
The War College offers senior military leaders from the United States and allied countries a yearlong graduate-level course in strategic studies. Officers enrolled in the college have the option of bringing their families with them to the Carlisle area.
“We had to decide,” Singh said. “A year is a long time. It’s a long time to lose a lot, but it is also a long time to gain a lot.”
In the end, family ties prevailed, and Singh made the difficult choice to step away from her native country during her final year in school and be there for her father.
She was invited Monday to be the guest speaker at the reception where U.S. Army War College leaders saluted top educators in the area for their commitment and support to military children.
About 34 individuals from five local school districts, two private schools and three child development and youth facilities were honored by War College commandant Maj. Gen. John Kem at Quarters One, his official residence on post.
One goal of the reception is to highlight the relationship among the Carlisle Barracks, local public and private schools and the military children who live a challenging life of many moves and school transitions. Singh was one of several hundred children brought to the Carlisle area by the War College Class of 2018.
“The way I thought I would achieve my goals was no longer there,” said Singh, recalling the early anxiety she felt about the move. “I had no idea what to do. Then I did what most people do, I came here and talked to people.”
For years, school liaison officer Christine Cormier has worked behind the scenes easing the transition for families and children coming in from different states and nations. Cormier was among the first people with whom Singh had the chance to speak, and that interaction made all the difference.
“She filled me with confidence,” said Singh, now 17 and a senior at Carlisle High School. “My fear of what I would do and how I would do it went away. This is all possible because of my teachers and counselors. A big thank you to all of you.”
While most of the new families move into the area during the summer, Carlisle Barracks Children and Youth Services receive most of the questions from those families in the spring, Cormier said. It is the job of school liaison officers to answer the questions and help the families fit in.
Since every school, state and nation has its own take on education, every family and every child brings to the mix a unique set of circumstances. But there are common themes. Over the years, Cormier has tackled questions on class rank, course offerings, school transcripts, Junior ROTC, fall tryouts for sports, what sports are offered and English language skills.
Not only do the educators and liaison officers have to work on transitioning each student into the Carlisle area, they also have to work on transitioning them out. The vast majority of U.S. Army War College students stay in the area only one year before they are reassigned to a different duty station or deployment. Their families often go with them with the new assignment, and the process repeats itself with a different set of educators and liaison officers.
“All the families want their kids to be socially and emotionally connected,” Cormier said. “If they are, they usually do well academically. I try to buddy them up.”
During the summer, Cormier matches the children of the incoming War College class with local students or military children whose parents are stationed in Carlisle for a longer term. Matches are made based on similar grades, gender and interests.
“We are an educational place,” Kem said about Carlisle Barracks and the War College. “For us, it’s a natural thing to want to collaborate.”
He said that while military children tend to be adaptive, it can be hard for them to move every year. This is especially true for high school-aged students. Most of the questions fielded by Child and Youth Services originate from families who have children in that age range, Cormier said.
“The local schools are amazing in bringing people in,” Kem said. “They make them feel at home.”
Each year, at least 350 to 400 military children are enrolled in the Carlisle Area School District, Superintendent Christina Spielbauer said. This represents the majority of the school-aged children brought to the area by War College students. Most of those children are only here for one year.
“We have a phenomenal relationship with the Army War College,” Spielbauer said. “The liaison officers start communicating with us the end of February, beginning of March. We remain in close contact with them just to make sure we have all the information they need to help the families coming in.”
Richard Fry, superintendent of Big Spring School District, agreed. “The communications channels are wide open. It is seamless.”
Military children, especially those of international fellows, tend to have a broader worldview than students born and raised locally. While this may present a challenge to those learning English, the cultural diversity and insight they offer is seen as an educational opportunity that sets the Carlisle area apart from other areas.
“They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from across the world,” Spielbauer said. “They share those experiences with our students who may not have the ability to travel or leave this area.”
Fry said this contribution is worth its weight in gold. Each year, Big Spring schools play host to an average of five to 10 children of mostly international fellows. “The students we have had have been a tremendous asset to our school district,” he said.
The benefit has been mutual. Military children who leave Carlisle can carry memories that last a lifetime.
“They bring a bit from where they came from and take a little bit of here when they go,” said Christa Siggia, a child youth program assistant. She was one of the 34 people who were honored at the reception for going above and beyond in helping military children transition.
Funding for a new position to oversee the Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition’s Healthy Shippensburg project will be provided through a grant awarded recently by the Partnership for Better Health in Carlisle.
Liz Fisher, SCRC chair, said the $64,200 grant will allow the coalition board to hire someone to serve as community health mobilizer and develop the Healthy Shippensburg project. She hopes to have the position filled by July 1.
“The coalition works to try to increase access to social services and youth projects in Shippensburg,” Fisher said. “One of the reasons we need to do that is because Shippensburg is divided in two counties. It’s partially in Cumberland County and partially in Franklin County, which can make accessing services challenging. We consider our geographic area (to be) anyone who is living in the Shippensburg School District.”
Until now, SCRC has relied almost exclusively on its volunteers, who represent the community and Shippensburg University.
“Up until this point, we have been almost 100 percent volunteer-driven,” Fisher said. “We’ve had a couple of staff members in the summer, but otherwise, everything has been through volunteer work. … This grant will provide, for the first time, the funds for the coalition to have a full-time position to focus on its mission.”
The top priority for the new community health mobilizer will be to plan for a communitywide assessment to determine the needs of area residents, Fisher said. Based on the findings of that assessment, workshops and training on various topics will be planned.
She said she hopes to strengthen and expand programs within two to three years.
The work of the community health mobilizer will be supported by university students.
“A big part of the work we do is a community-university partnership,” Fisher said. “SU students will help support the work of the mobilizer and work under that person’s directions.”
SCRC was founded in 2009. Its goal is to “help community members reach their full potential by partnering with existing organizations to either support expansion of their programs or working together to create new programs,” Fisher said.
The coalition has established many programs, including a summer lunch program that provides children with summertime activities and lunches, and Hound Packs, which provide backpacks of food to children each week.
“We have around 80 students right now who get backpacks of food every Friday, and we serve up to about 100 children each summer at the summer lunch program,” Fisher said.
She pointed to the summer lunch program as an example of a success story for both the community and the university.
“It started with like five children in the summer program,” Fisher said. “It’s really grown. It’s a really good example of the power of partnering with an educational institution.”
She said the program was organized by a student intern from Harrisburg Area Community College, and expanded in the second year by a Shippensburg University graduate student. Several years later, the coalition applied for funding and was able to hire a director and assistants each summer, she said.
In addition to health, the coalition is also concerned about issues like housing, access to mental health services, income, educational level and social support.
Board members are Fisher; Stacy Yurko, vice chair; Linda Butts, secretary; Rhonda Horst, treasurer; Laurie Cella; Kathy Coy; Virginia “Ginny” Lopez; Laura Masgalas; Angie McKee; Nicole Santalucia; Amanda Smith; Jennifer Steffen; Robin Tolan; Susie Topper; Danelle Wagner; Krystal Griffiths; and Sonja Payne.
For more information about the Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition, visit www.shipresources.org. For more information about the Partnership for Better Health, visit www.forbetterhealthpa.org.
During the month of March, 20 local nonprofit organizations participated in a $50,000 matching gift campaign offered by Partnership for Better Health. The Match Madness Campaign supports area nonprofits in raising core operating and program funds.
Throughout March, participating groups raised over $247,000, according to a news release from the partnership. When added to the Partnership’s $50,000 contribution, a total of $297,000 was raised, with 100 percent of the funds going directly to the 20 community organizations. As an added incentive, the first $1,000 raised by each organization was matched dollar-for-dollar by the Partnership.
When compared to last year’s campaign, total funds raised by the organizations increased 108 percent.
“Coming into the third year of the campaign, past experience played an important role in how each organization developed their fundraising strategies,” said Ann Myers, chief gift planning officer who managed the partnership’s campaign. “Community donors are now very familiar with the campaign and view it as a way to provide extra support to their favorite organizations.”
The size of personal contributions from donors ranged between $10 to more than $10,000. This year’s top five fundraising groups were Safe Harbour, the Salvation Army of Carlisle, the LEAF Project, the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council and Project SHARE, all raising over $10,000.
Staff at the partnership said the campaign focuses on small nonprofits with total budgets under $5 million. Groups participating in Match Madness were:
Cumberland County Tuesday said voters in North Middleton Township will see a new check-in process at the polls starting with the May 15 primary.
To ensure voters receive the correct ballot, an additional verification has been added to the check-in process when voters arrive at their polling location. The change will not affect or move voting locations.
When North Middleton voters arrive at their polling location, they will give their name and be placed into the correct congressional district voting line, according to the bureau. At that point, voters will continue through the voting process as normal.
The new process stems from the change in congressional districts in Pennsylvania. North Middleton is the only municipality in Cumberland County to be split in the new congressional map. Much of the northern portion is in the 13th Congressional District, which spans westward, while the southern portion closer to Carlisle Borough is in the 10th Congressional District, which spans eastward.
“We’ve never had a situation where a congressional district was split within a precinct,” said Bethany Salzarulo, director of the county Bureau of Elections and Voter Registration. “We’ve added additional steps to ensure the residents of North Middleton are voting in the correct congressional district. We’re asking our voters to be patient with the voting process this year as we make this transition. We also encourage voters with more flexible schedules to avoid peak times before and directly after work.”
The change will affect residents who vote at the North Middleton Fire Company No. 1 station on North Middleton Road and at the No. 2 station on Spring Road.
Residents who have questions about their polling location or the new process can call the bureau of elections at 717-240-6385.