The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 24, 2012

RESA 1 learns what 'Common Ground' offers

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— A representative from the West Virginia Office of School Improvement presented information on “Common Ground” at the RESA 1 Regional School Wellness Council Meeting last week.

Shelly DeBerry, state student success advocate coordinator, said Common Ground is a program that uses services provided by the military for classroom presentations, health and wellness activities, and career counseling.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Anthony explained this program is a “great way to finally debunk the myth that we are just here to recruit students. We are here to give back to and be involved with the community.”

DeBerry said the military can provide invaluable classroom presentations on topics such as anti-bullying, suicide prevention and substance abuse.

“These are all hot issues right now in schools. We are not exempt from any of them in West Virginia, and these are all issues these military men already have detailed training in,” she said.

Also, through the Common Ground program, military personnel can act as additional career counselors.

“The message they bring is, ‘Graduate and create a future for yourself. We have a future we can offer you, but if you are not interested, let’s help you create another future.’”

She said the biggest hurdle is changing the “recruiter image” of the military in schools. Instead, military officers have experience in interpreting aptitude tests and interest inventories, experience that would greatly assist a high school student searching for a career path.

DeBerry explained that in West Virginia there is one career counselor for every 400 students. The national recommended ratio is one per every 250.

“School counselors are missing opportunities to be able to provide intensive career counseling services to students. This is another way to access it for them,” she said.

Right now Common Ground is just taking off in West Virginia, said Capt.. Tim Lohse.

“We are growing by word of mouth. When we get involved in a school, we do such a good job more schools in that area request us,” he said.

DeBerry said Common Grounds is being used in small pockets across the state in Boone, Wood, Parkersburg and Randolph counties, but many schools are missing out on the full spectrum of services provided by the military.

Those present at the Regional School Wellness Council Meeting were excited about using military services to boost physical activity. They discussed having students work through different field tests manned by members of the military.

Representatives from the military said many physical education teachers have told them that having the military there training with students often increases their drive to do well.

“This is a great program. One reason I asked them to this meeting is to help share information across our region about these opportunities that are available to use,” said Ann Sammons, RESA 1 regional school wellness specialist.

“We definitely want to be involved in the community any way we can. Common Grounds not only helps us, it helps the community,” added Staff Sgt. Brian Tony.

Counties, schools or individual classrooms can request presentations on the West Virginia Department of Education’s Common Ground Partnership webpage.

For more information, visit http://wvde.state.