If permanent changes of station are filled with unknowns and uncertainties for military members and spouses (even the experienced ones!), it's easy to imagine the stress that military kids go through move after move and having such little say in the situation.
The Youth Sponsorship Program was designed to ease this transition.
As adults, we try and take back a little bit of control from our dictated transitions by searching every internet site related to neighborhoods at our new destination, using social media to find the right school, or even reaching out to a friend of a friend to snag the perfect rental. Kids typically don’t have that type of reassuring access to relieve stress.
The Youth Sponsorship Program was designed to give kids a chance to make a few decisions for themselves and investigate their new surroundings. The YSP is similar to the traditional sponsor programs the military has been running for years, but this version of the program matches kids already located at the destination to incoming kids who are hopeful to start learning the ropes as quickly as possible.
With help from parents to make the coordination, new kids are introduced to local kids either through phone calls or emails after they've registered with their gaining installation.
The youth or school services programs on each base typically handles registration and offers detailed information regarding exactly what is entailed with their YSP, as it varies from base to base.
Important points of the Youth Sponsorship Program include:
- An introduction to just one new friend often leads to meeting many more friends, quickly.
- A friend can answer detailed questions about classes, recess, teachers, and more.
- A new friend will be eager to show you around the neighborhood.
- The YSP provides a familiar contact before arriving at your new destination.
- Kids aren’t required to live on base; children in surrounding cities are eligible.
A large component of the YSP is the Military Child Education Coalition’s Student 2 Student (STS) School Transition Support Program. The program is school-based where military children are present, and led by current students. Their goals are in line with YSP’s intent to ease the transition and provide safe and positive communication between military and civilian children. STS is available at elementary, middle, and high schools.
Consider this twist for using the YSP: Maybe this PCS season, your family isn’t the one to go, but your kids are losing their best friends. Volunteering in the YSP in your area would be an amazing way for your kids to work through the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends by saying hello to potential new friends in their neighborhood.
And don’t forget about the DODEA School Liaison Officer near you. They should be able to help to find many more youth services geared toward transitions, in addition to the Youth Sponsorship Program.
Photo via Flickr user Mark Sebastian