News Release
October 21, 2019
For Immediate Release:
Contact: Carly Cumpton
From Military Child to Vernon Parish Educator, Joseph Saverino’s Story
LEESVILLE, LA -- In 2019, Vernon Parish School Board reported that military children make up roughly 31% of their student population. Supporting these military children requires their unique experiences to be understood by educators in the school system. Vernon Parish meets these children’s needs through a variety of methods: their Military Student Transition Consultants (MSTC), an array of strategic programs, grants, and, more organically, through teachers and staff who share a similar background. Joseph Saverino, Assistant Principal at Simpson High School, is one of the many people in the local school system who falls into the last category.

Saverino was entering first grade when his family was assigned Fort Polk as their next duty station. While he did not know it at the time, the impact of this move would shape his future. His family stayed at Fort Polk for close to four years, during which time he attended North Fort Polk Elementary. 

Next the family was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington, a huge change from the climate and culture of Louisiana. Remembering the experience, Saverino said “I still tell everybody that Washington was my happy place. I liked the weather. The weather, the climate, the people… it was all so different.” However, this experience did not last long. After less than a year his family was given the opportunity to relocate, and this time his parents requested to be stationed back at Fort Polk.

As many middle schoolers might, Saverino found the transition back to Fort Polk difficult. Looking back now, though, his perspective on his parents’ decision has changed. “As an adult, I get it. It [Vernon Parish] is perfect. It is a nice, calm, quiet community to live in…I understand what my parents were doing, it’s a safe place to raise your kids and that is why they chose to come back.”

Saverino’s father retired from the military while he was in high school and bought a house in the area. Both he and his sister graduated from Leesville High School and while he spent one semester at a college out-of-state, Saverino completed the bulk of his studies, and his competitive soccer career, at Louisiana College in Pineville. 
Photo of Joseph Saverino with quote about teaching both military children and local students.
After college, he spent a few years as an Assistant Coach for the Leesville High School soccer team and as a substitute teacher before becoming a full-time teacher for the school. His experience as a military child and a long-time Vernon Parish resident gives him a unique perspective to share with students. When talking about the first day of classes each year, saying “I would always say ‘Raise your hand if you’re a military kid’ and close to half the class would raise their hand. I would tell them ‘I was too, so I get it. If you have any problems, you can come to me and I will understand what you are going through.’

“Then I would say ‘Keep raising your hands, now, those of you that are from Leesville, raise your hand’ and the rest of the class would raise their hands. And I could say ’Okay, I am too, in a sense. I graduated from Leesville High School; the obstacles you are going through I’ve experienced those too.’ Because I’ve experienced both, I felt I could typically relate to every kid in the school in one way or another.”

For students facing the challenges and demands of transitioning into a new school, knowledge that their teachers and other school staff understand their experience can be reassuring. In addition to MSTC and the many other resources available to students surrounding Fort Polk, these educators are specially equipped with personal experiences to aid military connected students attending Vernon Parish schools.
Fort Polk Progress is a regional community organization that takes a proactive stance against budget-driven U.S. Army troop reductions by maintaining relationships and partnering with decision makers in Congress, at the Pentagon and at the state level, ensuring that the most up to date information concerning Fort Polk and the surrounding communities is used in decisions concerning the base. In addition, Fort Polk Progress actively markets the base to the military as the most cost effective place to provide soldiers with the best training possible and strives to help ensure the best possible quality of life for soldiers, civilians and their families. Most recently, Fort Polk Progress has spear-headed an Education Initiative, which acknowledges exceptional educational achievements in the region and pursues continued excellence in education for military families throughout the region. 

For more information about Fort Polk Progress visit us on the  web , like us on  Facebook  and follow us on  Twitter .