For its commitment to helping students from military families deal with the unique issues they face, Olentangy Liberty Middle School was selected as one of the first eight schools in the state to receive the Ohio Department of Education’s newly established Purple Star Award.

A press release issued Tuesday by the ODE states, “The Purple Star Award for military-friendly schools recognizes schools that show a major commitment to serving students and families connected to our nation’s armed forces.”

Olentangy Local Schools Superintendent Mark Raiff said, “As a father of two children who are serving in our armed services, and a third who is in ROTC, our support for military-connected students and their families is a point of pride. The work being done by many at Liberty Middle School, and which is now expanding throughout our school district, speaks to the very heart of our mission to facilitate maximum learning for every student.”

According to the ODE release, Ohio is home to 34,000 children with one or more parents serving in the military, and by the time some of these children receive their high school diploma, they will have attended anywhere from six to nine different schools.

Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction, said, “A supportive school environment can have a significant impact on our military-connected students. These Purple Star schools provide our children and families with the resources they need to be successful. We’re thankful for their service and honored to continue the important work of improving services for Ohio’s military families.”

Liberty Middle School will formally recognize acceptance of the Purple Star Award plaque during a ceremony scheduled for 2:20 p.m. on Dec. 5 at the school, said Devon Immelt, a spokesman for the district.

Committee focused on making a difference

Jason Durell, a counselor at Liberty Middle School, played an integral part in the school being recognized by the ODE, Immelt said.

An Army National Guard member and veteran of the Marine Corps, Durell, according to a release from the district, utilized his unique insight into the challenges faced by students from military families to organize the Olentangy Military Family Committee.

Established earlier this year, the group consists of district employees with military ties, and its goal is to “support Olentangy’s military youth by raising awareness about the resources available to them and ensuring that district staff know who they are and understand the policies and laws involving students with military parents,” the release states.

Durell was moved to help military youth at Liberty Middle School after speaking with a student who felt she was different from other students because she had to deal with her mom leaving every other month to fulfill her military obligations. Durell helped connect the youth with others at the school who were dealing with similar issues, the release stated.

The Olentangy Military Family Committee is working to launch a military family resource page on the district’s website at

By Joshua Keeran

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Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.