Fort Polk Progress' Cafeteria Conversation bridges gap for new students; DeRidder High begins Advanced Placement classes


LEESVILLE, La. (Fort Polk Progress) - Fort Polk Progress’ Education Initiative has had lots to celebrate this summer including its annual Cafeteria Conversation held in late July and the recent rolling out of new Advanced Placement classes at a local school.

Parents and their children received a warm welcome along with abundant useful information about Vernon Parish schools on July 29 during the Cafeteria Conversation, held at Parkway Elementary in Leesville.

The open house offered local families, many of them military-affiliated, the opportunity to get to know teachers and faculty from area schools and receive information about how best to support their children’s education. The event was designed to ease parents’ and students’ fears about coming into a new community and to give them information about the wide variety of local resources to help them succeed.

The open house event, now in its fourth year, is the result of a partnership between the Vernon Parish School District and Fort Polk Progress.

“Moving and starting over in new communities is a fact of life for military families, and it can be especially hard for the kids,” said Mike Reese, Chairman of Fort Polk Progress. “This event is designed to make that transition a little easier for parents and families, and let military families know that our community is here to support them.”

The Cafeteria Conversation is just one component of the Education Initiative, a larger effort by the nonprofit, the school district and the community as a whole to support the school system's objectives. The effort was launched in 2013 and has resulted in demonstrable gains in both student academic achievement and school infrastructure. The Education Initiative was also awarded the Military Child Education Coalition’s Partnership of Excellence award in 2014 for outstanding cooperation to improve local student outcomes between the school system and community.

Higher education outcomes continue to be at the core of the Education Initiative’s objectives. Students coming into DeRidder High School now have the option to take additional Advanced Placement classes. The school was recently awarded the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) College Readiness Program, Advanced Placement Grant. Through the College Readiness Program, NMSI is partnering with high schools across the country that are committed to raising the academic bar and working with students, teachers and administrators to set and achieve ambitious performance goals.

The expanded program will offer AP classes in Physics, Literature, Language, Calculus, Environmental Science, Computer Science Principles, Biology and Chemistry. DeRidder High School estimates 119 students will participate this year in the program. Parents interested in learning more about the Advanced Placement Program at DeRidder High School can contact Assistant Principal Mrs. Shawn Baggett at 337-463-3266.

“We are excited that DeRidder High School is beginning a partnership with the National Math and Science College Readiness Program and are grateful to Fort Polk Progress in conjunction with the Department of Defense for helping secure the grant to make this program possible in our school system,” Beauregard Parish Superintendent Timothy Cooley said. “We are eager for our teachers at DeRidder High School and its feeder schools to participate in the training available through NMSI to promote academic excellence at all grade levels as we expand the number of Advanced Placement courses offered and the number of students enrolled in them.”

Reese said the NMSI program is a great asset to DeRidder High, its students, and the community.

“We are beginning to identify more programs that are targeted at schools that serve military-connected students, and at the same time, benefit all students in our area. It’s an important advancement to the Fort Polk Progress mission of supporting the defense communities in the area,” he said.

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