Month of the Military Child: Brooke Matthews, MA, Curriculum Development Specialist

April is the Month of the Military Child (MOMC), and we want to recognize the resilience of the children and youth of our service members. We’re proud to offer support to our military children’s educators to help create and sustain inclusive practices for all.

We would like to share our KIT Spotlight on Brooke Matthews, one of our very own Curriculum Development Specialists.

Brooke Matthews has over 15 years of experience working in Child & Youth Programs for both the Navy and Air Force services. Her experiences range from working in the classroom to overseeing a Youth Program as the Director. As a Curriculum Development Specialist at KIT, she hopes to enhance caregivers’ perspective of inclusion and to equip them with tools to improve experiences for all children. Outside of work, Brooke enjoys spending time with her family and friends at home in South Carolina.

“Inclusion creates meaningful opportunities and experiences for ALL.”

Words from Brooke

Story-time

I remember peering through the back passenger window of my parents’ vehicle as we drove more than 1,000 miles away from my oneBrooke Matthews wearing a purple blouse in front of a white background. and only best friend. This would be the final time I’d be moving away from a lifestyle and community that became familiar, comfortable, and mine. I was in the 9th grade. My younger brothers, Brian, 9 years old, and Harrison, one year old had no clue about what I’d been feeling during that time. I can even recall Brian laughing at me because I’d cry throughout our long journey. Little did Brian know, he’d be feeling that same feeling only five years later when my family would move more than 4,000 miles away from his buddies.

While there are plenty of joys and benefits given to military children, the challenges and hard times certainly make up for the “extras” these children might receive. I appreciate the recognition of military children in any sense because there are some experiences and sacrifices that are uniquely theirs.

As a youth, I do not remember much about the MOMC activities or events, but as a previous Child and Youth Professional, I led a team of staff who’d host and facilitate events to honor the children in military families. These events not only gave the children and youth some acknowledgement for what they go through, it also created an opportunity to inform the program staff about the participating children’s one-of-a-kind experiences. For example, after moving to one of our new locations, my dad was deployed for over a year. That’s like putting icing on an already too sweet for your teeth cake, right? Having this context helped my staff understand children’s actions as a reflection of their experiences. This gave them important perspective on how to approach, support, and care for the children.

Back to the Story

Setting… new location. I was determined to NOT feel that feeling I felt leaving my buddy, ever again. So, I chose not to pursue friendships. Instead, I focused on my schoolwork. I did exceptionally well. It’s funny looking back now because I accomplished what any parent would dream for their growing teen. I became an honors student, captain of my sport’s team, and I wasn’t cruising the streets because I didn’t go out much. High school was an enjoyable time, but I can honestly say that I have not had a desire to attend reunions and such because I didn’t make close friends when I was there. I was laser-focused on academics and sports to avoid getting hurt, I suppose.

As a Child and Youth Professional, I’d always viewed the MOMC events and activities we provided as an opportunity to not only show appreciation for the resilient young individuals, but to also provide support networks to help them thrive despite the hardships they may encounter. As an adult, I see the benefit and value of relationships, especially those between peers. I believe that creating these types of meaningful connections can truly enrich a growing child’s life. I’m so thankful for my family and the connections I’ve made throughout my growing years. I always say that I am family oriented, but I do believe that building friendships is crucial and I wish I’d done that more intentionally growing up. By creating spaces where young people can connect and share experiences, we might foster some meaningful bonds.

A Call to Action is in Order!

As we cross paths with and get to know military children, let’s prioritize the MOMC approach to foster bonds that’ll be life impacting.

Let’s help children/youth maintain connections by fostering an environment where children and youth feel comfortable expressing their feelings and building strong relationships with peers.

Let’s offer outreach by extending efforts to include military children in community events, clubs, and activities thereby creating opportunities to connect with like-minded peers.

Let’s model empathy by demonstrating an understanding towards military children.

Let’s cultivate friendships by facilitating opportunities for military children to create friendships with peers who share similar experiences.

A Bit More Story

I’m grateful to share that during my first year with KIT as a traveling Education & Training Specialist, I had the chance to revisit the place I left over 17 years ago. Reflecting on the reconnection with my best friend after all those years, I cannot help but to think about and be inspired by the resilience of children (as we once were). I’m moved by our bond, which remained strong despite the limited communication. It’s a reminder of the profound power of a meaningful connection.  Let’s find value in fostering those connections for the children and youth by giving the MOMC approach a go to ensure that everyone finds comfort in meaningful relationships, fostering bonds that stand the test of time.