USC’s Welcoming Practices Partners with L.A. City, Schools and Veteran Organizations to Support Children from Military and Veteran Families

Mayor Garcetti addresses the parents, students and officials at Leland Street Elementary.
Mayor Garcetti addresses the parents, students and officials.

The Welcoming Practices team joined Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative at Leland Street Elementary School in San Pedro Thursday to help formally announce the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) new initiative to identify and better support children in military and veteran families.

On emergency information cards, families enrolling in the district are now asked whether a parent is a military member or a veteran, and for which branch. Mayor Garcetti called the new policy a “groundbreaking initiative” that will help military-connected children receive the support and services they need to be successful in school. LAUSD is the first large metropolitan school district to collect the information on both active duty and veteran families.

“This small change can make a huge difference in the lives of children and their families,” the mayor said.

The effort is the result of over a year of work by the Collaborative, the mayor’s office, the district and the Building Capacity and Welcoming Practices projects at USC, which published four guides now being used by educators and parents in the district to better understand how military life affects children.

“This is all about you,” USC’s Dr. Ron Avi Astor, told the students gathered in the school auditorium for the event. “This is all about your parents and your older siblings.”

A Leland family picks up one of the guidebooks written by the USC team.
A Leland family picks up one of the guidebooks.

The guidebooks, he said, pull together inspiring examples of how schools across the country support military families and include examples of how military-connected students are leading efforts in their schools to welcome other newcomers.

“It’s so important that we help young people who transition in and out of schools,” said Richard Vladovic, a U.S. Army veteran who represents local District 7 on the LAUSD Board of Education.

The event was also an opportunity to recognize the school’s military and veteran families and to highlight Leland as an example of how public schools can make military children and families feel welcome and put them in touch with the services and programs that can meet their needs. The school, near the Port of Los Angeles, actually opened in an Army barracks in 1922. The school now serves a high proportion of LAUSD’s  military- and veteran-connected students. Principal Lora Caudill described the school’s monthly “military-student roll call event” in which military students can share their experiences and support each other.

“Leland will lead the way for the rest of the schools in L.A.,” Astor said.