Joining Forces Blog

  • FMA Live! Teaches Military Students the Importance of STEM Education

    As part of our Family blog series, every week we will cover a topic relevant to military and veteran families.  Today we highlight FMA Live! – a unique one-of-a-kind show that  teaches students the basic principles of physics and connects the dots between Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and the great job opportunities of the future.

    In support of our nation’s military families, the FMA Live! Forces in Motion show kicked off their fall season by performing at a military-impacted school in Washington, DC. The show uses live actors, hip-hop music and dance, larger-than-life demonstrations, and audience participation to inspire teachers and military students to embrace STEM education.

    FMA Live! was created in 2004 by Honeywell Hometown Solutions and NASA with the goal of using innovative methods to instill a passion for innovation and technology within our future workforce. FMA Live!, along with the Joining Forces Initiative, aim to cultivate the talent of our youth to ensure that our country is equipped with scientists need to meet the challenges of the next century. 

    “Our country shouldn't lose out on its most promising talent because the career path is untenable,” explained First Lady Michelle Obama. “So we have got to do everything we can to keep fueling this country's engine of innovation and discovery.”

  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of America name RaShaan Allen Military Youth of the Year

    Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Inaugural Military Youth of the Year Celebration held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. At this event, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) announced the first-ever Military Youth of the Year winner. This distinct honor recognizes an outstanding military youth that overcame enormous odds with exceptional accomplishments. Members of the BGCA were judged on their community service, grades, speeches, and interviews. 

    This year’s winner is RaShaan Allen from Fort Knox, Kentucky.  RaShaan was one of six regional finalists and will now serve as BGCA’s official youth advocate for the 500,000 military youth that belong to BGCA. RaShaan demonstrates extraordinary character and is a true testament to how someone can overcome adversities and prevail.

    Growing up, RaShaan faced many challenges: his mother’s deployment, the lack of a father figure in his life, the eight moves he underwent in one year, and the loss of his home, his neighborhood, his school and his best friend during Hurricane Katrina. Despite these adversities, RaShaan participated extensively in extracurricular activities and served as co-president of the Club Youth Council and as Army Family Action Plan delegate. In high school, he played eight varsity sports and served as president for his freshman and senior classes. Currently, RaShaan is a student at Western Kentucky University, where he plans to major in political science.

  • Marking Suicide Prevention Month

    In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have contributed to the Huffington Post “Invisible Casualties” series -- a special series that shines the spotlight on military suicides and prevention.

    Joining Forces is committed to enhancing the well-being and psychological health of our military service members, families, and veterans. Thus far, Joining Forces has engaged mental health professional associations to train thousands of health care providers to recognize the unseen wounds of war, promote research, and build public awareness of military wellness issues.

    Joining Forces wants every military service member, veteran, and family to know that asking for help is not a sign a weakness and they do not have to face these challenges alone.  As Americans, it is our duty to take care of those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

    “Whether you’re a friend, a neighbor, or a family member, you can help support these heroes by encouraging them and their families to seek help if they need it,” explained Dr. Biden.

    If you or someone you know is seeking assistance, The Military Crisis Line is there to help. For support, call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), text 838255 or chat online at This service is free, confidential, and available 24/7 to all military service members, veterans, family members, and friends.

    Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces

  • Joining Forces Launches Family Friday Blogs by Highlighting Blue Star Museums

    Today we launch our first in a series of Family Friday blogs, which will cover topics relevant to military and veteran families. This week's blog highlights one example of a great partnership aimed at increasing military family wellness through the enjoyment of the arts.

    Blue Star Museums, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, Joining Forces, MetLife Foundation and museums across the country, have just wrapped up their fourth successful season. This year, more than 2,000 museums, art centers and exhibits offered free admission for all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

    In addition to free admission, military children between the ages of 6-17 were invited to participate in the Way Cool Creativity Contest. The participants created a piece of art that either highlighted their visit to a Blue Star Museum or expressed appreciation for the arts. The 2013 Finalists have been selected and their artwork can be seen on the Way Cool Creativity Page.

    Ask your local museums about military discounts or view the Blue Star Museums map for a list of museums that participate year-long. In addition, military service members, families and veterans can take advantage of Blue Star Theatres. Over 90 theaters nationwide have joined Blue Star Families to offer discounted or complimentary admission to military personnel, their families, and veterans.

    Joining Forces would like to thank the more than 2,000 Blue Star Museums that took part in celebrating our military service members and their families. We look forward to seeing the 2014 season.

    Colonel Rich Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces

  • Helping More STEM Students get College-Ready

    Ed. note: This is cross posted from the official blog of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Read the original post

    In his remarks last week on college affordability at the New York State University of Buffalo, President Obama emphasized that “higher education is still the best ticket to upward mobility in America.”

    Indeed, more and more well-paying jobs—especially those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields—require education or training after high school. STEM fields are some of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy and they are important to the health and longevity of our Nation’s people, economy, and environment.

    But a recent report shows that today, less than half of high school graduates in the United States are prepared for college-level math courses, and under a third are ready for college-level science.  Educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs is critical to the continued leadership of United States. We need to get America’s STEM students college-ready.

    From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has called for all hands on deck to improve STEM education in America. Under the President’s Educate to Innovate Campaign the Administration has formed public-private partnerships to inspire students in STEM fields and to provide the tools for students to achieve success. 

    The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) is one such partner working to answer the President’s call by improving student engagement and success in challenging high-school math and science courses. Today, NMSI announced that for the fifth year running, students enrolled in its Advanced Placement (AP) program earned significantly higher scores on AP exams compared to the national average. By providing teachers with specialized training, mentorship, and classroom resources, increased class time, and incentives for teachers, students, and administrators to work to achieve ambitious goals, NMSI’s AP program has on average increased by 144% the number of students achieving qualifying scores on AP math, science, and English exams in schools adopting the program. 

    The program has also succeeded in narrowing the achievement gap for women and minorities traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, nearly doubling the number of girls achieving qualifying scores on math and science AP exams and nearly tripling the number of African American students doing the same.  And this matters because students earning qualifying scores on AP exams are three times more likely to earn a college degree. 

    And in response to the First Lady’s call to support the Nation’s service members through  her Joining Forces Initiative, NMSI has partnered with OSTP to establish the Initiative for Military Families, which has brought NMSI’s AP program to public schools with large populations of military kids.  That growing initiative is already in place at 70 military-serving schools across America. 

    Programs like this one help students succeed in courses that will prepare them for college and earn valuable college credit—setting them on the path to successfully earn a college degree. 

    As August winds down and a new school year begins, OSTP wishes continued success to students and teachers across the country and looks forward to building more partnerships to ensure that student interest and achievement in STEM fields only continues to grow.  

    Arun Seraphin is Principal Assistant Director for National Security and International Affairs at OSTP

    Danielle Carnival is a Senior Policy Advisor at OSTP

  • Operation: Opportunity Helps Reconnect Service Member with Family

    Earlier this month, Hilton Worldwide announced Operation: Opportunity, an initiative aimed at supporting our nation’s military service members, families, and veterans. This new multifaceted program aligns with Joining Forces’ goal of giving service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Last month they aimed high by making a pledge to hire 10,000 veterans in the next five years – and this week, they are once again giving back to those who serve.

    Sergeant First Class Russell Zink, a soldier returning from Afghanistan, expected to enjoy a bit of post-deployment R&R with his wife and two children in Atlanta, GA. He received that and more when, on August 23rd, he arrived in Atlanta to find more than twenty of his extended family waiting for him. Homewood Suites by Hilton had arranged an all-expenses paid reunion for his family members, some of whom Sergeant Zink had not seen in over ten years.

    With assistance from the National Military Family Association and Joining Forces, Homewood Suites created the Zink family reunion, which is slated to be the first in a series of post-deployment, military family reunions. Christian Kuhn, vice president of marketing, Homewood Suites by Hilton, remarked on the purpose of their new military-focused initiative: “Knowing the heavy burdens endured by our nation’s military families, our goal is simple – to say thank you and help the more than 25 million Americans that have served unlock the benefits of family travel, reconnect and strengthen bonds with loved ones through memorable, yet affordable vacations.” He added that an additional goal of the program is to spark similar programs across the hospitality and travel industry.


    Colonel Morales is the Executive Director for Joining Forces