03/16/08 — Counselor will focus on military children's needs

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Counselor will focus on military children's needs

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 16, 2008 2:01 AM

Wayne County Public Schools has hired a new counselor to help local military students and their parents adjust to their new hometowns.

Jamie Livengood has been hired by the school system as its military counselor. The state legislature has already funded similar positions in Cumberland and Onslow counties.

Mrs. Livengood's office is at Eastern Wayne High School, although in the two weeks since her job began, she has spent little time there. She will be assisting counselors and other support personnel across the county, as well as working with Robert Freeman, liaison between Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the district.

Like those she will be serving, she is moving into an uncharted direction. Although she is from Wayne County, she says there are still "a lot of unknowns right now."

"Three years ago, I helped start a new (Johnston County's early middle college) school, and we had no office, we had no building," she said. "I have been through that, trying to navigate something new is what excited me about this job."

She also previously worked in the local school system. From 2002 to 2004, she taught Spanish at Charles B. Aycock High School.

"I like new possibilities and new opportunities. When I saw this job, it sounded like something I really wanted to pursue," she said. "I felt good about what Wayne County wanted from the position and what I could offer students connected to the military."

The district already has several services in place to support military families, officials said.

Associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction Dr. Sandra McCullen said in addition to the base liaison, school counselors have long worked with military families, particularly during times of deployment. The school system is also affiliated with the Military Child Coalition and taps into the resource often.

"(Superintendent Steve) Taylor and Olivia Pierce meet quarterly with leaders of Seymour Johnson, to do community needs and programs that we have so that we can have a better relationship with military families," she added.

The new job's description will cover an array of areas. Mrs. Livengood said she aspires not only to build on the bridge between the school system and the base, but also to work as an advocate for the students.

In addition to assisting counselors and other staff with up-to-date information, she said she most looks forward to direct contact with the county's children.

"Sometimes what they're going through spills over into academic counseling as well because those emotions will play out," she said.

Beyond their emotional well-being, though, are the nuts and bolts aspects of being a military transplant. These range from ensuring records and credits transfer to making sure families have access to services they need and getting their children involved in sports teams and clubs they enjoy, Dr. McCullen said.

"We try to make it a seamless process," she said.

Mrs. Livengood will work with students of all ages, but wants to be especially responsive to those who most need the service. She recognizes the importance of removing barriers or at least easing some of the pressures so students can achieve in school.

"With the case loads that counselors have, I think they can use any kind of resources," she said. "I'm in the process of trying to track how many military students we have in the schools, really trying to get out in the community.

"I think it's really important right now to just let people know I'm here."