by Eric Christenson
For military children who typically attend six different schools in 12 years, beginning a new year in a new school presents major challenges. Their parents also face challenges. Online enrollment helps, but transitioning into new schools is stressful and widespread among military families—though not unique. State requirements for graduation vary. Prerequisites in math in different states and other countries, for example, confuse parents and guidance counselors. Finding medical services for military kids can stress parents. Rollie Sampson’s challenge is to reduce the stress.
As the liaison for military families and their children moving into Moore County Schools, Sampson employs skills learned 20 years ago at Fort Carson – “The best thing I ever did,” Sampson says of her military experience. As platoon leader in a construction battalion, she was the project manager of horizontal projects—roadways and heavy equipment operations. “I learned more about the professional world than I did in college,” she says. “I learned how to develop long-term goals, to get along with a wide variety of people, to solve problems and to value teamwork and the success of the group.”
After taking time to raise her family, she is now finishing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Wake Forest University. With knowledge gained at Wake Forest and skills learned in the military, she has developed solutions to the many problems military families face as they move to Moore County with their school-age children.
She assists schools and works in collaboration with them to help military families entering county schools. “School staff can assume that children get used to deployments and loss, but in reality, frequent deployments can take an emotional toll on the whole family,” Sampson says. A seventh deployment does not inure a child to fear. Military families do not want special treatment, she says, only a level playing field eased by thoughtful, hands-on orientations mentored by a peer when appropriate. Transitioning students need to know how to use the Chromebooks, the library and the lockers. They need to feel comfortable knowing how to dress. And they need to be in the right classes and not repeat what they learned the year before, nor struggle unnecessarily in advanced classes.
“I receive calls from frustrated parents trying to navigate a new system and I get to help make their transition a bit easier. What could be better?” says Sampson. “I get to do something positive every day. I love my job.”