This week marks the fifth anniversary of Joining Forces – a nationwide initiative launched in 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden that calls on the public and private sectors to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives.
Last week, Dr. Biden traveled to Escambia High School in Pensacola, FL, where she was joined by Jason Silva, host of the National Geographic Channel’s Brain Games. The two paired up for a series of mind-bending, scientific challenges between students from local high schools to celebrate the expansion of Advanced Placement (AP) STEM classes throughout the state. This event brought together military-connected youth and their non-military connected classmates, along with teachers, administrators, and local officials, to celebrate the completion of an important Joining Forces partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). New commitments to NMSI will now extend NMSI’s College Readiness program to 200 military-connected schools – meeting 100 percent of a goal set at the launch of Joining Forces five years ago.
For the two million children who are sons and daughters of our nation’s Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard, success depends on having consistent, high-quality educational opportunities whenever and wherever their families may be transferred. Organizations like NMSI are addressing this challenge directly and have joined forces with public and private partners, to help ensure that children of service members have access to the best education resources possible.
Through its College Readiness Program for Military Families, NMSI is broadening access to rigorous AP coursework in math, science, and English and equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to graduate from high school ready for college and the STEM-intensive careers of the 21st century. Moreover, the program is producing significant positive student outcomes. After just one year of the program, students in NMSI’s military-connected partner schools show a 66 percent increase in qualifying AP math, science, and English scores—more than 10 times the national average!
In Pensacola, Dr. Biden announced that with support from the U.S. Department of Defense and a coalition of partners, NMSI will meet its commitment to Joining Forces to expand into 200 military-connected schools throughout the country. These schools serve the dependents of our airmen, coast guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and civilian personnel at more than 75 military installations in 33 states. In Florida alone, NMSI will be in 18 high schools by the fall of 2016. Through its work with these communities, NMSI will ensure that 300,000 students, more than 60,000 of them military dependents, will be prepared for the rigors of college and career.
"As a teacher, I see the potential in all of you,” said Dr. Biden to a gymnasium filled with more than a thousand students. “And you should be given the opportunities you deserve."
NMSI was one of the first organizations to partner with Joining Forces five years ago. Achievement of their mission to support more military-connected students is an important accomplishment that serves as a great case example for organizations looking to build public-private partnerships to support the needs of service members, veterans, and their families.
Jamie Lyons is Policy Director to Dr. Jill Biden