Joining the military is a major commitment. When you have a family, it’s a big commitment for them, too. Children of military families move an average of six to nine times before they finish high school graduation. That’s a lot of change: new teachers, schoolmates and cultures. Separations from parents and friends can also cause anxiety for military-connected youth, most of whom live in civilian communities.
Last week in Washington, D.C., BGCA hosted nearly a dozen government agencies, military-serving organizations, corporations and foundations to form “Better Together,” a public-private partnership to serve military families who reside in civilian communities. There are 1.2 million military-connected school-age children in the United States, nearly 75 percent of whom live in civilian communities, away from health, academic and social services provided on-installation. The auspicious event was attended by notables that included Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Army Colonel Gregory D. Gadson and USAF Gen. Darren W. McDew, who is also a Club alum.
We have a duty to support military youth and their families. With Better Together, we can support our active duty and veteran military families by bringing critical health, academic, and social services to their children. Our goal is to connect 250,000 military youth with development and family services over the next five years. Better Together is recognized by the Department of Defense and the White House's Joining Forces program. The initiative will first activate in the highly impacted military communities of Washington, D.C., San Diego, San Antonio, and military-focused areas of Mississippi.
The following day at our 4th Annual National Military Youth of the Year Celebration, we honored six outstanding teens from BGCA-affiliated Youth Centers on U.S. military installations across the nation and overseas. During the ceremony at the Army & Navy Club, Arianna Skinner from the Joint Base Fort Dix Youth Program in New Jersey was named 2016-17 National Military Youth of the Year. She will receive a $20,000 scholarship and serve as BGCA’s official advocate for military youth. Arianna used her Youth Center experience to form meaningful relationships and access resources as she moved between military installations. After she graduates from high school in 2019, Arianna’s goal is to attend the Air Force Academy and become a fighter pilot or intelligence officer.