04/14/2011 08:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2011

New Initiative Demonstrates First Lady's Commitment to Military Families

April is designated as "Month of the Military Child." In reality, in school districts across the country and the world, the opportunity and responsibility to educate military children is celebrated each and every day. The soldiers, sailors, and airmen who protect our country have volunteered to do so and we owe them and their families a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they make for all of us. Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been going on for nearly 10 years combined and the challenges our military families face continue to mount. Initially children whose parents served in the military experienced one deployment; now the majority of children experience multiple, extended deployments. This brings unique challenges to our schools and families.

The specific challenges for our military families may not be clear to many Americans. This will soon change. First Lady Michelle Obama has recently announced her support for the new Initiative for Military Families. She and others will highlight the struggles military children face in an effort to provide support to these families who sacrifice so much. As part of the kick off, she is visiting Fountain-Fort Carson High School this week to encourage students to enroll in Advanced Placement classes that emphasize math, science and language arts, all essential for our students' futures.

It is an honor to work in the Fountain-Fort Carson School District, where we serve thousands of military children. We see first-hand the toll the war is having on our students and their families. During deployments or trainings, military parents can't attend school functions such as plays, concerts, games, award ceremonies, graduations, and sometimes miss their child's first day of school. The once-in-a- lifetime events that our soldiers miss -- such as the births of their children or their child's first steps -- can't be recaptured. I cannot imagine missing these things for my children, yet our military families make these sacrifices on a regular basis. Children often may not see their mother or father for a year, which contributes to the stresses they are under. Since military families move frequently, this means the children often have to adjust to new schools, a new place to live, finding new friends, saying goodbye to old friends, trying out for new teams, getting introduced to a new curriculum, and a host of other challenges.

We are grateful to have the National Math and Science Initiative step up to the challenge of making sure that students from military families get the education they deserve. Their Initiative for Military Families will bring the highly-regarded and highly-effective Advanced Placement courses to our students. This will give them a much better chance of succeeding in college because they will be eligible for college credit if they pass the AP exams, which in turn will save money for families on a tight budget. Mastering the college-level courses will also increase their chances of graduating from college. Students who pass an AP exam are three times more likely to complete college. Because the AP curriculum is standardized, students who are transferred mid-course or mid-high school will be able to transition more easily to the uniform coursework.

Thanks to this public-private partnership and commitments from companies like AOL that support military family causes, Colorado Legacy Foundation that builds trust with educators, and ExxonMobil which provide support to math and science initiatives in the classroom, the children of our service members will now be more prepared for college and their future careers. Members of the military want their children to learn math and science -- they appreciate engineering and technology because often their lives depend on it. They know that success in the military or in most of the competitive careers today requires much more math and science knowledge.

We'll be working at Fountain-Fort Carson High School this fall to get the Initiative for Military Families off to a good start in our school. I can vouch that teachers who work in military school districts have a passion for serving these students. We are committed to the mission of these children having a bright future when they graduate from high school. The efforts of Michelle Obama and the Initiative for Military Families will bring the stories of military children to more Americans. These children only get one chance at an education and it takes all of us working together to make sure their experience is the best possible. We hope the rest of the country will join us in making sure more of these students get the math and science they will need to thrive in today's world.

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