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Fort Campbell High School staff welcoming to new students

The Courier
Fort Campbell | August 9, 2018

Rising senior Brandon Clay takes his backpack out of his locker at Fort Campbell High School. Brandon is new to FCHS, after recently transferring from Fort Knox High School. Although he was disappointed he would not attend Fort Knox High School his senior year, Brandon said he is excited for the coming year. 

Jacob Rolfe and Hannah Thurber quietly chatted outside of the Fort Campbell High School guidance counselors office as more than 430 other students headed to classes for their first day of school. Brandon Clay stood in front of the school giving his parents a thumbs up as they snapped pictures.

Jacob, Hannah and Brandon, all seniors, are new to FCHS. This is Jacob’s fourth high school, Brandon’s third and Hannah’s second. Each has a different story, yet none is foreign to the child of a Soldier. All of them were in awe of their brand-new school, a 21st century facility with a spacious commons area that filled with sunlight Monday morning.

Jacob, who aspires to become a foreign service officer, has spent the last year in Idaho while his father attended the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“This is much nicer than your average high school,” he said.

Hannah, who plans to join the Air Force after graduation, attended the same Florida middle and high school until her move to Fort Campbell.

“I’m kind of scared,” Hannah admitted as she took in her surroundings. “This is so different from where I came from – it is way nicer.”

Brandon found out in December that he would be leaving Fort Knox High School and attending FCHS for his senior year. “It’s always easy to get upset or look at something in a negative way when you’re feeling sad about something like moving in your senior year. When my parents told me, I was kind of upset because I had just started at Fort Knox High last August,” he said. “I believe that God puts us in places for a reason and so I figured there is a positive way to look at this. There are just so many wonderful opportunities wherever God places you.”

Jacob and Brandon agree the staff at Department of Defense Education Activity schools have a way of making military-connected students feel at ease, and the students themselves are quick to accept newcomers into the fold.

“From the teachers to the students, every aspect of my move has just been amazing. The first time I met Ms. [Stacy] Daniels [senior counselor at FCHS] back in February, she put my worries at ease – it has just been a smooth transition,” Brandon said. “In my first class I sat down next this girl and she just immediately started talking to me, I think that is really cool. As a military kid if I would have gone to public school it would have been different – a lot of students who go to public school have lived [in the area] their whole lives, but as a DoDEA community we are more transient, military kids are more open because we understand the pain and trouble of having to move somewhere new and having to make new friends and start all over again.

Brandon aspires to become a high school teacher.

“I know it is kind of specific, but I really want to be a DoDEA teacher – I am really interested in science and also mathematics,” he said. “I want to be one of those teachers – like a lot of my teachers – who get students excited about learning. Like my chemistry teacher, Coach Kennedy, he is so cool – all of my teachers are cool – I just really enjoy his style, he laughs with us and he makes us feel comfortable. I just feel really welcomed.”

A place to learn, grow

The vast open spaces and modern architecture of the school is what impressed most students on the first day.

“This school is a lot more open,” said rising senior Dutch Arnold, who with his brother, Coby Arnold, a sophomore, and their mother, Megan Arnold, were gathered in Daniels’ office Monday morning working out class schedules.

 “I really like the look, it’s sleek,” Coby said. “I really like the natural light.”

The atmosphere of the building itself felt inviting and welcoming, Megan said.

“It looks like it was built to create a community among the students, so they know they are part of a bigger world,” she said. “This is a place that will enhance their educational experience.”

The commons area is an open space where students can gather, its relaxed atmosphere makes it a place where the student body and staff can gather as a community.

“I really enjoy the commons and how big it is and how open it is. I believe that one of the architectural features – the purpose behind it – is to make it feel like a community, a place to grow,” Brandon said.

The sense of community was extended to each student Monday morning as the FCHS staff was joined by Soldiers from 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, at the school’s bus entrance to welcome everyone with high fives and cheers.

The 129th CSSB is partnered with FCHS under Fort Campbell’s Adopt-a-School Program, an official activity that provides volunteer services to schools in the local area.

Meeting all students’ educational needs

Although the amenities at FCHS impress all who enters, the end goal for the staff is to prepare their students for success in the 21st century.

“One of our primary objectives at FCHS is to build a school-wide atmosphere promoting college and career readiness. Our advanced placement data over the past five years clearly demonstrates that we are achieving our goal. FCHS AP exam scores of three and above have improved 20 percent in the last five years,” Daniels said.

The AP program is governed by the College Board, a mission-driven nonprofit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. There are more than 30 college-level courses available, some of which are offered at FCHS. Students who take the college-level course will take an end-of course exam and, based on their numerical score, may be awarded college credit for the course.

AP exams are scored on a five-point scale. The top score is five, and the lowest is one. Average scores vary for different subject areas, but for many colleges and universities a score of four or five is typically required for the student to earn college credit for a subject.

According to College Board in 2017, of the nearly 5 million AP exams administered nationally 13.3 percent of test takers scored a five, 19.5 percent scored a four and 25.2 percent of test takers scored a three.

“Our scores are above the national average and the DoDEA average,” Daniels said. “Additionally, we continue to add courses to our school’s schedule based upon student need and interest – this year we have added AP Government and AP Human Geography. We continuously have students researching and requesting additional coursework, and we are excited that students are projecting their academic paths. To date, approximately 19 percent of our student body is participating in one or more AP classes, and many students have three or more. With the college acceptance process growing increasingly competitive, FCHS is making our curriculum more rigorous to assist students in achieving their goals.” Daniels said.

Helping students achieve their educational goals is a mission the FCHS staff takes seriously for all its students, including those who struggle academically and those with special educational needs including 504 accommodation plans for students with medical issues.

FCHS has a student support team – made up of educators and counselors – who monitor student progress. Once the FCHS student support team identifies a struggling student “they come up with some strategies and recommendations for teachers to put in place to help that student,” Daniels said. “They also work with the Family.”

All in all the first day went smooth for the 439 students currently enrolled at Fort Campbell High School.

“This was better than my first day at Fort Knox, and I love Fort Knox – it is one of the best schools that I have attended in my whole life,” Brandon said. “I hope that Fort Campbell will be an even better experience.”

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