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.