Transfers are a part of life for most students who attend Department of Defense Dependents Schools in the Pacific. Even for those such as volleyball player Lakeyia Brown, who had lived most of her life in the Yokota and Yokosuka communities near Tokyo and all its big-city trappings.
The news came last spring: Brown’s father, Lorenzo, was being reassigned from his job as Nile C. Kinnick High School principal to the same post at Matthew C. Perry. From city lights to the back country of Iwakuni in one fell swoop.
But Brown didn’t cry about things. She did things. One of the first was visit Facebook and search for Perry players. She said she connected almost immediately with junior middle blocker Courtney Beall, a Samurai veteran.
“It made a major difference,” Brown said of being able to ask in advance what the school, teachers, community and team were like. “Me and Courtney, we struck up a great friendship. Social networking, the cyber environment, was really important. It’s groundbreaking. It’s a good thing.”
Beall said she emphasized to Brown the “Famurai” theme “that everybody picks up on here. I told her how she will easily become accepted into Perry and will also be a big asset to the team.”
The Samurai, Beall said, had been in need of an outside hitter to balance their attack and join forces with Beall and her friend and teammate Sam Herritt. “She (Brown) is now my other best friend and sidekick on the court.”
“We took her in just like we would do anybody,” Herritt said. “Our school is small. We’re a mini family. Everybody knows and helps each other.”
Facebook friending, Twitter following, Tumblr, Flickr, Skype, even good old-fashioned email go a long way toward making a student-athlete’s transition from one school to the next that much more smooth, DODDS officials said.
“These kids are plugged in,” DODDS-Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said. “They’re growing up with it. They’re social-networking natives. Social media is a critical part of how we communicate. It’s important, no question.”
Brown is one of a handful of examples of in-theater transfers, the most noteworthy:
n Christina Thompson, Kadena senior tennis player who transferred from Daegu.
n Sophomore twins Aaron and Ethan Russ, cross-country runners who moved from Guam to Kinnick.
n Chris McQuillen, a sophomore football quarterback who left Kadena and is now Perry’s JV football team quarterback.
n Aaron Stravers, senior football player now at Kubasaki after spending two seasons at Kinnick.
They’ve used or are using social media to get the jump on what to expect at their next location and keep up with the old gang at their previous schools.
Stravers’ father, Jason, who also uses Facebook, communicated with Kubasaki coach Fred Bales not via Facebook, but by email, one of the early staples of Internet communication in the 1990s now dwarfed by social networking.
“Once I got here, I started collecting friends on Facebook” at school or Internet cafes, Aaron Stravers said. Once his family gets Internet in their quarters, he is considering starting a Facebook group page like the one Kinnick has.
Acceptance came quickly for Stravers, as it has for all of the transfers. “Every one of us has been in this position” of DODDS students moving several times in their lives, Stravers said. “But you’re the ‘new guy’ only a day or so, because so many new people come in. There’s been no issue trying to fit in. These guys have accepted me.”
The Russ brothers were similarly accepted on a Kinnick cross-country team that’s as competitive as the school has fielded since the 1990s. After their Red Devils race and their former team races, the two spend time Skyping with their old Guam teammates to compare notes.
“We talk about our teams, talk about how each of us are doing,” Aaron said.
In Thompson’s case, she says social networking makes her feel as though she’s still part of her old team.
“I still feel really connected to them,” she said. “I ask them how their games are going. I think the boys have a fighting chance (at Far East). I hope they do well. But I hope we (Kadena) do better.”