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SLO links families, schools during pandemic

A photo of the child and youth specialist smiling

Darren Hill, 23d Force Support Squadron child and youth education specialist, poses for a photo Aug. 19, 2020, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The child and youth education specialist, also known as the school liaison officer, offers guidance and support regarding academic options for military-affiliated students. The SLO ensures Moody's Airmen and their families make informed decisions on the vast academic options available during the global pandemic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Hayden Legg)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Whether parents choose remote learning, homeschooling or in-person schooling, Moody Airmen can rest assured knowing there’s one person who will advocate for their children’s education during the global pandemic.

Moody’s child and youth education specialist, also known as the school liaison officer, offers guidance and support regarding academic options for military-affiliated students in order to ensure Moody’s Airmen and their families make informed decisions on the vast academic options available.

“It’s my job to customize real-time solutions for military-connected students facing transitional barriers and educational gaps,” said Darren Hill, 23d Force Support Squadron child and youth education specialist. “I collaborate with the community to build a platform for enhanced educational opportunities and partnerships. I’m also responsible for creating a system of support for military-connected students experiencing parental deployment or separation.”

Hill has many duties such as helping families find a suitable school for their children and advocating for military families with school-aged children by creating communication pathways between families, local schools, the community and military.

“[I take] every opportunity to stand in front of our Airmen and their families to promote the [school liaison office] position and the various educational opportunities that are available to their children,” Hill said. “I brief the SLO program at new teacher orientation [in downtown Valdosta], Newcomer’s Orientation, Smooth Move, Heart Link, key spouse training, Top 3 meetings and commander’s calls.”

By working with the local community, Hill is able to conduct research on the resources available to military members and, in turn, educate the community on the inner workings of military life.

“It’s beneficial to work with the community because it helps to bridge the understanding gap that lies between the military and the civilian community,” Hill said. “Helping the local community to understand the challenges of military service equips [the community] with the knowledge needed to champion causes that support military families.”

For Hill, the current pandemic hasn’t affected his ability to help families find a suitable educational plan for their children and advocate for military families with school-aged children by creating communication pathways between families and the local schools.

“[My duty] doesn't change at all because I'm still supporting our military families through the different programs the local schools are offering,” Hill said. “I may have a family who may have decided on the virtual option, but a few days into school realize the virtual option isn't working [for them]. So I'll step in and kind of advocate on their behalf with the school system and say, ‘hey, you know, this is going to be more advantageous for this family to have face-to-face versus virtual’ and try to facilitate that change.”

Hill doesn’t just provide resources and help for families who chose a public school system. Services for homeschooling are also available for families.

“I have a homeschool Facebook group with a lot of information,” Hill said. “I put out information on the process of signing up for homeschooling. I walk them through that process and I connect those homeschool families with other homeschool families who have been successful at it. Homeschooling a child can be very intimidating, so having a mentor is very beneficial.”

Hill says he’s here to provide educational services whether it be home, private, charter, online or public schooling.

“You name it, I’m here for it,” Hill said. “I'm here to serve as a bridge between our military families, the local schools and the community; to help them even before they arrive at Moody Air Force Base to feel some sense of acclimation to the base; and just give them as much information prior to arriving so that transition would be as seamless as possible.”

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