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Liberty JS2S, Texas partners receive national award

Accepting for the Junior Student 2 Student group at Liberty Middle School, Benita Tunstill (at center) and Cindy Davis (left of Tunstill) receive the 2016 LTG (Retired) H.G. 'Pete' Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in Washington D.C. CONTRIBUTED
Accepting for the Junior Student 2 Student group at Liberty Middle School, Benita Tunstill (at center) and Cindy Davis (left of Tunstill) receive the 2016 LTG (Retired) H.G. ‘Pete’ Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in Washington D.C. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – The Junior Student 2 Student (JS2S) organization at Liberty Middle School has earned a national award for a program that pairs military bases with schools in innovative projects.

The award’s name is the 2016 LTG (Retired) H.G. ‘Pete’ Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award.

Liberty JS2S and Meadows Elementary School students at Fort Hood, Texas worked on Mission PREVAIL!. This project allowed the Alabama and Texas students to collaborate in a robotics competition via videoconferencing. Soldiers from Fort Hood also participated.

The Texas school “participates in the Adopt-A-School Unit (2-82 FA, 1CAV). The school adopts a unit of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, and the soldiers visit and read to classes, have lunch with students and spend time at the school. In return, students make cards and food treats for their adopted soldier,” Liberty Nurse Benita Tunstill said.

In late June, Tunstill, who sponsors JS2S, and Cindy Davis, District At-Risk Counselor for Madison City Schools, were invited to Washington D.C. for a national training seminar with the Military Child Education Coalition.

Tunstill and Davis received the Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for “Mission PREVAIL, Texas and Alabama.”

Liberty and Meadows elementary students designed, built and programmed robots to complete tasks within a specific time frame. “Their work required creativity, problem solving, resiliency and teamwork,” Davis said.

The project’s idea originated at the 2015 Washington conference when Tunstill met Meadows teacher Stephanie Young during one of the breakout sessions. “We discussed creating a partnership with Liberty and her elementary school, Meadows Elementary, located at Fort Hood, Texas. I made contact with Ms. Young and the partnership grew from there,” Tunstill said.

“As the sponsor of Liberty JS2S, I wanted my members to see and try to understand what a military family deals with on a day-to-day basis,” Tunstill said. “Most of my JS2S members have no idea what it is like to have a parent or both parents deployed for six months or a year.”

During Mission PREVAIL, Liberty JS2S read to kindergartners at Meadows. “We call them ‘roos’ because the teachers name was Ms. Moreau, and the kids had a hard time remembering her name,” Tunstill said.

In addition, the Liberty students sent cards and ‘care’ packages to the soldiers from 2-82 FA, the Adopt-A-School unit for Meadows. The ‘roos’ were guests in Liberty’s Veterans Day program, and Meadows allowed Liberty to watch the Ride 2 Recovery event that was held at Fort Hood.

“We all collaborated — Liberty JS2S, Meadows and the adopted soldiers — in a robotics competition via ZOOM videoconferencing. Soldiers from Fort Hood were the coaches for the Liberty JS2S team via videoconferencing,” Tunstill said.

The soldiers gave tips, suggestions and much needed support. “The soldiers actually built a robot just like the Liberty team so they could be more hands-on with the group,” Tunstill said. Meadows students worked one-on-one with their soldier coaches at Fort Hood.

The students and soldiers used a LEGO Robotics kit that Meadows shipped to Madison to confirm that all robots were the same, except in the design phrase.

The partnership during Mission PREVAIL! “gave students at Liberty and Meadows a way to connect with each other. It enriched and expanded the knowledge and experiences of the students in innovative ways that excited and challenged them,” Tunstill said.

The partnership also allowed Liberty JS2S members “to see and experience what it is like to be a military family,” she said.

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