Joining Forces Blog
- Posted byon September 6, 2013 at 4:39 PM EST
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
- Posted byon September 3, 2013 at 3:36 PM EST
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
- Posted byon August 29, 2013 at 12:49 PM EST
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
- Posted byon August 15, 2013 at 2:11 PM EST
We are excited to announce that Hilton Worldwide has announced plans to hire 10,000 veterans and military-connected family members over the next five years.
In addition to their individual hiring commitment, Hilton has also generously offered to donate overnight hotel stays to job-seeking veterans and eligible spouses through its Hilton HHonors guest-loyalty program. The donated rooms will be provided to those who are interviewing for a job, engaging in skills or certification training, or other job-seeking activities.
Donated Hilton HHonors hotel stays will be distributed with help from the National Association of State Work Force Agencies (NASWA), who will allocate the donated nights through its partnership with state CareerOneStop centers nationwide.
On behalf of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, I applaud Hilton Worldwide’s commitment to hiring our nation’s veterans. The hotelier’s new program will help achieve our goal of giving service members, veterans and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. We hope that other companies will follow Hilton Worldwide’s lead.
Colonel Rich Morales is Executive Director of Joining Forces
- Posted byon August 13, 2013 at 3:02 PM EST
On Saturday, at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama outlined five Administration priorities that ensure we are fulfilling our promises to those who have served our nation, including supporting our veterans in institutions of higher learning. In his speech, President Obama announced that 250 community colleges and universities have committed to implementing the 8 Keys to Success on their campuses. Developed by the Administration, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with more than 100 education experts, the 8 Keys to Success on campus are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there.
The 8 Keys to Success on campus are:
1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
6. Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.
With more and more service members returning home in the next year, it has never been more important for schools to have a roadmap in place to make sure veterans are getting the best possible educational experience. By adopting the 8 Keys to Success, schools are taking a positive step in that direction.
The 250 schools that have committed to the 8 Keys to Success are helping veterans and military families afford and complete their college degrees, certificates, industry-recognized credentials and licenses, and—importantly—preparing them for jobs in high-growth sectors of the economy. More schools are expected to adopt the 8 Keys to Success on campus in the coming months.
The 8 Keys to Success are only part of the Administration’s efforts to support and protect service members in the classroom. The Keys build on the Administration’s Principles of Excellence, which President Obama established by Executive Order in April 2012. The Principles of Excellence provide protections for our military and veterans in institutions of higher education to prevent against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices. To further veterans’ success in higher education, the VA is also expanding its VetSuccess on Campus and Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership programs, which connect veterans to VA resources. Together, all of these measures will help provide our veterans and military families with the high-quality, affordable education they deserve.
We all owe a great debt to those who have served this country. Giving schools tools they can use to truly welcome and support our returning service members is one way we can help repay that debt by making sure we are providing our veterans and military families with an education worthy of their exceptional talents and experience.
Sarah Baker is Policy Advisor to Dr. Jill Biden
- Posted byon August 8, 2013 at 3:04 PM EST
August 7th was National Purple Heart Appreciation Day, dedicated to those service men and women who put their lives on the line and were awarded the Purple Heart for their bravery and sacrifice in combat. The exact number of service members who have received the Purple Heart is unknown, but estimates place the number around 2 million with over 55,000 of those coming from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday evening, to honor America’s Purple Heart recipients, New York City residents and visitors alike witnessed the top of the Empire State building illuminated purple.
- Lights mentioned on the Empire State Building Home Page: http://www.esbnyc.com/
- Military Order of the Purple Heart: http://www.purpleheart.org/DownLoads/MOPHToday.pdf
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