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Northern Shores receives Purple Star

Northern Shores Elementary School is one of just 56 public schools in Virginia to receive the Purple Star designation from the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The Virginia Department of Education presented Northern Shores Principal Lori White and school counselor Maria Eiring with a certificate and a Virginia Purple Star commemorative coin during Suffolk’s School Board meeting Thursday evening.

“I’m proud to announce that Northern Shores Elementary School was selected to receive one of the first Purple Star awards,” said Military Family and Student Specialist Daniel Dunham. “The Purple Star awards help to guide military families to schools that have support in place for their children.”

The Purple Star designation commends military-friendly schools that have demonstrated a major commitment to students and families connected to the military.

“Earning the Virginia Distinguished Purple Star School designation gives students and families a strong sense of comfort that Northern Shores Elementary understands the many challenges transitioning to a new school may bring,” Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney said. “I’m confident that families appreciate the support the school has in place to assist new students and families.”

Eiring has been the main force driving the support for military families, and she has made it her mission to continue to help to serve the military students at her school for the last 11 years.

Eiring worked in York County prior to coming to Northern Shores, and she was surrounded by military children. This helped her see that there was a need for assistance with transitions and deployment. She has gone through different pieces of training and professional developments to allow her to better help the students.

“The training also made me a better school counselor to help all of our students with transitions and resilience,” Eiring said.

One of the ways that Eiring helps military children that come to Northern Shores is through the Anchored4Life program.

“It’s students helping students,” Eiring said. “They help them with the change.”

Other students join the program and train on how to help new military students or military students whose parents are going on deployment.

They make every effort to help the students emotionally, because, Eiring believes, a student that is stressed about their home life doesn’t perform well in school. One of the things the Anchored4Life program does is to provide military students with deployment boxes.

These boxes are filled with a teddy bear, a journal, a family workbook and a journal for the children.

“These boxes are designed to provide help and offer a support system for these kids,” Eiring said.

Northern Shores will hold this designation for the next three years before having to reapply. Dunham believes that having these schools will serve as a template and a motivator to other schools in the Commonwealth. Whitney also believes this will allow other Suffolk schools to use Northern Shores as a guide.

“Other schools with a qualifying contingent of military-connected students will now be able to pattern practices of Northern Shores Elementary to possibly earn the Purple Star designation in the future,” Whitney said.

According to the Virginia governor’s office, there are more than 73,000 school age children of active duty military members in Virginia.