Inside the Gates: Eagle River High School seeks Alaska’s first Purple Star for helping children of military families

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Maddy Brokaw is in her senior year at Eagle River High School. It’s the latest stop in her educational journey.

“I’ve moved like nine times in my life, and I’ve gone to eight different schools I think I counted,” Brokaw said. “So I definitely know what it’s like to be the new kid.”

She had to move because of her father’s Air Force career. It’s a similar story for many students at her school.

“About 30-40% of our students in a given year, are military,” said Principal Tim Helvey. “Whether their (parents are) active duty, retired, but a number of our kids are military.”

Eagle River High School has focused on making the transition easier for new students who are children of military families since it opened its doors in 2005.

“We try to make sure each student has, coming in, a buddy that they can figure out their schedule, lockers, all the important things that you know, coming in you want to know,” Helvey said.

That buddy system really helps, according to Brokaw.

“I think that’s really reassuring to the person because you have that quote, unquote “first friend,” and that first connection you would have,” Brokaw said. “So it just is reassuring, and helps the person like, have a connection and have someone they know in the hallways, and they can just build from that.”

Helvey said his school’s efforts to make the transition easier are well known in military circles.

Eagle River High School wants to become the first school in Alaska to be considered a Purple Star School. The designation, according to a news release from the Alaska Depart of Education and Early Development, recognizes a school that makes the transition to a new school as smooth as possible for students in military families.

Currently, only schools in the Lower 48 have received the honor.

Brokaw learned about the program while in the Girl Scouts.

“We already have lots of the things in place,” she said. “It was just finding documentation for it, or adding on little things to it to make it qualify for it.”.

Helvey believes his school should receive the honor.

“I’m like ‘this is perfect, this fits into what we’re already doing,’” he said.

The school will have to wait until April 2022 when the education department will announce the which Alaska schools receive the Purple Star School designations.

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