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From left, Taylor Marquez, a sophomore at Guam High School, talks to Ashley Rashid, Yokota High School English teacher, about a campus action plan during a workshop at the New Sanno Hotel.

From left, Taylor Marquez, a sophomore at Guam High School, talks to Ashley Rashid, Yokota High School English teacher, about a campus action plan during a workshop at the New Sanno Hotel. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

TOKYO — When Justin Samonte moved to Guam a year ago, he was nervous about what to expect from his new school.

The campus layout, new teachers and different academic requirements are just a few obstacles he faced, in addition to having to try to fit in and make new friends.

While moving to a new school can be challenging for any child, it is even more difficult for the military child, who often is forced to make this transition every few years.

“Personally whenever I move to a new school I’m a little afraid,” said Samonte, now a junior at Guam High School, adding that he already has moved three or four times in his life.

Every year, about 30 percent of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific students move to new schools, according to a DODDS-Pacific release.

To help ease the transition, 32 students and faculty members from high schools throughout Japan and Guam came to Tokyo last week to learn about the Student 2 Student initiative.

High schools in South Korea and on Okinawa completed the training last year, said Angela M. Mahon, a student personnel services coordinator.

Sponsored by the Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Texas, S2S trains teams of high school students and faculty advisers in ways to support transitioning students. After completing the class, participants return to their home schools where they train other students and staff.

According to program manager Paul Callen, a typical S2S team at a high school focuses on three main goals: helping new students find their way around the school and community; helping them build relationships; and informing new students about what is expected of them academically.

The training shows participants how to be more empathetic to the needs of the new students by “putting yourself in their situation to understand what they need to help adjust” said Angela Butler, a counselor at Zama American High School.

“It’s a great idea to bring adults and students together,” she said, adding that the students who attended really stepped up with a sense of ownership and responsibility for the program.

“We have so many new people coming to our school,” said Azsa Alderman, a junior at Nile C. Kinnick High School. “We need to be more open to helping others and sharing our experience.”

Samonte agreed.

“Having someone there to help makes the transition easier,” he said. “With this program, we can provide a helping hand to the new students.”

For more information about the S2S initiative: www.militarychild.org/S2S.asp.

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