GOODYEAR – At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Great Hearts Trivium Preparatory Academy became one of the first schools in Arizona to be named a Purple Star School candidate.
The school joined Luke Elementary School, Millennium High School and Dreaming Summit Elementary School in the Purple Star pilot program launching in Arizona. All four schools serve families from Luke Air Force Base.
The Purple Star distinction is awarded to schools with programs dedicated to supporting military-connected children in their education and social-emotional development.
“Military children have such a unique challenge in the fact that they are moving so often, and they have parents that might deploy,” said Melissa Rueschhoff, an Arizona attorney and military spouse whose two children are students at Trivium Prep. “They’re learning to meet new people, they’re learning an entirely new environment and they’ve left something behind.”
According to Great Hearts Arizona Superintendent Brandon Crowe, in order to become part of the pilot program, Trivium Prep implemented four different support elements for its military-connected students.
“The first is that we have a designated campus liaison, so any family that’s new to the school has a point of contact,” Crowe said. Other supports include peer mentoring, staff and faculty training, and online resources.
The campus liaison at Trivium Prep is Chris Wright, a third-grade teacher who spent four years in the Marine Corps. He oversees the school’s peer mentoring program, which connects incoming students with other children from military families.
“They’re supposed to take the students through the school, they’re going to introduce them to more students, they’re going to make them feel comfortable here,” Wright said. “We know that students who feel comfortable and loved in their environment are more successful.”
The peer mentors are 15 students of varying ages, all from military families, who have been trained by Wright on how to support their fellow students as they settle into their new environment.
“They’re able to relate and just be compassionate towards them, which will help them through that transition,” Wright said.
Wright also helped train the school’s faculty and staff on how to appropriately support military-connected students through the unique struggles they may face.
An online page connects the school’s 60 active-duty military families to academic and social-emotional support resources, ensuring that children have access to tools that will help them succeed.
“We want our schools to be a place where students are known, where students are loved and welcomed, in such that they can flourish and grow morally and intellectually,” Crowe said. “Any kind of barrier or limitation to that, we’re actively trying to break down.”
Arizona’s Purple Star pilot is in its infancy. Legislation must be passed at the state level in order to establish a program for Purple Star School designation. Such legislation has been written and proposed by Rueschhoff and former Arizona Rep. Joanne Osborne.
“If everything goes well, the governor will sign it into law in April during the Month of the Military Child,” Rueschhoff said.
If the legislation passes, Trivium Prep and the three other schools in the pilot program can officially become Purple Star schools, designated by the Military Child Education Coalition.
“The sky is the limit,” Wright said. “ What we’re really hoping for is that we’re able to develop this particular program.”
According to Wright, the next phase of the Purple Star program at Trivium Prep involves expanding the existing peer mentoring program into a school club that meets regularly. He also said that they hope to plan a patriotic assembly and celebration at least once a year.