CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 6, 2019) — Camp Zama's school liaison officer knows families have questions about their children's education when they transition to a new duty station, perhaps doubly so when that duty station is overseas.
And because the summer months are the time when many families are going through a permanent change of station, or PCS, Brooke Boswell says she remains committed year-round–but particularly during this peak season–to answering those questions.
Boswell, who works out of Camp Zama's Child and Youth Services, says the questions families most commonly have would be typical among any family moving to a new place: "What should I do to prepare my child?" "What documents do I need?" "How do I get in touch with my child's new school?"
Her job, Boswell says, is to provide those families with the resources necessary to find the answers they are looking for and to pave the way so that their transition goes as smooth as possible.
"I help transition [families] here with everything related to school," said Boswell, "and then also when families leave from here, I assist [them with] transitioning from here so I can connect them with the school liaison officer at their next installation."
School liaison officers provide families with educational resources outside of school as well, such as home schooling resources, post-secondary options and, in Boswell's unique case, Japanese-language tutors. In addition, school liaison officers help parents prepare their children for their new school, holding parent workshops on topics such as child advocacy.
Col. Thomas Matelski, the new commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, said transitioning as a military family can sometimes be difficult, especially for school-age children, who must adapt to a new place and, when moving overseas, a new culture. That is where people like Boswell are an integral asset in helping those families, Matelski said.
"The School Liaison Office provides an important way to quickly welcome and integrate school-aged children by connecting them to others in their age group and helping new students to adjust to their new home in Japan," said Matelski, who arrived at Camp Zama with his family in July.
Matelski praised Boswell on her efforts in helping him and his family with their transition to Japan when they arrived to the country last month.
"[Ms. Boswell] was phenomenal and did a great job laying out all the things that we needed to know about registering our sons for school this fall," said Matelski. "She went above and beyond in answering our questions, even reaching out to other organizations to find out the answer before we left."
Boswell said she serves as a bridge not only between the school and the community, but also U.S. Army Garrison Japan. She ensures the garrison stays informed of school services, support programs, Army policies and procedures related to schools and students, and further education opportunities.
Of the many things Boswell recommends to incoming families, one of the most important, she says, is organization. Parents can help ease the transition by teaching their children to organize their important school documents in folders or binders, which Boswell says allows the children to "take more ownership of the PCS."
One common mistake families sometimes make is forgetting to bring their child's transcripts or school records from their previous school, Boswell says. This can sometimes make it difficult to ensure students are enrolled in the correct classes–particularly students in high school. Having all transcripts in hand upon arrival helps the school to swiftly put students into the classes they need, she said.
One resource of which Boswell is a strong advocate is Camp Zama's Youth Sponsorship program.
"We basically will connect the students coming in with students that are here and have been here and actually volunteer to be a sponsor, so that the new student can ask tons of questions," said Boswell. "They can sort of help alleviate some [of the new student's] fears. It helps their child feel like they are already connected, like they have a sense of belonging here."
Contacting Boswell is a great way to help parents alleviate concerns, get questions answered and allow their children to be prepared to enter their new school smoothly and easily, Boswell says.
Call the School Liaison Office at DSN (315) 263-5441 or 011-81-46-407-5441 from overseas for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To find resources online or to learn more about the Youth Sponsorship program, visit the Camp Zama MWR website at https://zama.armymwr.com/, click "Facilities and Programs," look under "Child & Youth Services," and click "School Support Services."