YUMA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - April is the month of the military child.
2016 Tillman scholar Kate McKenney has committed her career and endeavors to make sure military families find support and success in those critical years of early childhood education.
"Five moves, five preschools, in five years, yeah, "McKenney said, chuckling.
McKenney can laugh now about the blur her life has been because she survived juggling three toddlers; 4-year-old twins and a 2-year-old during her husband's last overseas deployment.
“Military families especially when they have young kids, they need a lot of support,” McKenney said.
“You know, they're missing their extended family. They don't necessarily have like a grandmother to call to help out, so they really rely on each other,” McKenney added.
When you marry into the military as she did with her high school sweetheart and Marine husband Mike, it's a life of adventure and frequent moves, quasi-single parenting, and uprooting and re-setting your children just as they're building new bonds or thriving in school.
“You know, the first five years of development are so monumental,” McKenney said.
McKenney helped start up a new cooperative preschool in Yuma, creating an instant community with scholarship opportunities catering to military families.
“I mean there are a lot of differences. They might arrive mid-year, there might not be any more spots left,” McKenney said.
The goal is flexible and affordable, high-quality early childhood education, a model that can be duplicated at any other base.
“I really felt like if I wanted to make a bigger impact, I needed to go back to school and I needed to learn more to really sort of be able to impact even more people,” McKenney said.
McKenney's now a year away from graduating with a doctorate in entrepreneurial leadership in education at John Hopkins University on a Tillman scholarship.
She's spent the last three years studying school readiness for military families and isn't sure yet exactly how she'll put her findings into action.
But one thing is certain.
“That I'm going to be able to give back to my community wherever I might be. That’s a priority. It's been a marathon but it's been exciting,” McKenney said.
She and her family are moving again this summer, this time to Italy.
She hopes to use what she's learned to help more military families find success wherever they move along the way and says it’s been a great honor being chosen to be a Tillman scholar helping to carry on his legacy in our community.