Marrington Elementary creates a welcoming culture for military children

Senior Chief Ian Cross volunteers as part of the Marrington Elementary Hero program.

“We enjoy being a stop along your path.”

That is the motto of Marrington Elementary School. The school is merely a stop for over 90 percent of the student body, who are the children of military personnel stationed at Joint Base Charleston.

Principal Jennifer Theilmann knows that deployments can play a major part in a child’s life especially when they are in school. The experience of always moving and never being from one particular place can have profound effects on a child.

“Each deployment can make or break a kid,” Theilmann explained.

The children who come into Marrington only stay for an average of three years. During this short window the school works to give every child at the school a place of love and belonging.

“Every kid at Marrington is loved and supported so that they can thrive wherever they are in the world next,” Ann Schuler, the counselor at Marrington said.

Schuler is a former military child as well and knows how difficult it can be to transition on the students. The school has several programs to assist students with moving to a new place, parent’s deployments and meeting new people.

“Marrington is the best place for a military child to be,” Schuler said.

The school also has a counselor on campus that children can speak with to help cope with their parents being away on deployments.

Marrington also has the Hero program which puts male role models in the school for the students. Schuler said that this program is especially good for students whose parents are deployed or are unable to be at home frequently due to military obligations.

“All of these programs enhance the life of a military child,” Schuler said.

Schuler said that the school is often not a difficult adjustment for children because their experience is so common among others at the school.

“You’re surrounded by military children and military parents,” Schuler said.

While military life is a constant focus of Marrington Elementary, they also seek to make coming to school a constant and enjoyable experience for all students. Theilmann said that she not only wants to recognize the sacrifices of the parents but also the students. She said that the students recognize their parents service and the school wants the children to know they are important as well.

“They all have a sense of appreciation for what they do and what their parents do,” Thielmann said. “We really celebrate that the kids serve too.”

Thielmann said that the stress of military life can often weigh heavily on the children who cycle through Marrington. She said the students often go home and assume adult responsibilities. Thielmann wants Marrington to be a safe place for students to be free of those burdens and responsibilities.

“They come in and they get to be a kid,” Thielmann explained.

Whenever a parent gets re-assigned and a students time at Marrington comes to a close the school announces to the school the student is leaving and the student will ring the bell as they exit. From the time a student enters Marrington until they ring the bell the school’s faculty and staff work to create a loving and nurturing atmosphere to carry them through the rest of their journey.

“From the time you come to the time you ring that bell you have a home,” Schuler explained.