Story and photos by Dustin Senger
An award-winning children’s author and illustrator visited Fort Carson students Feb. 15-18 during his “With You All the Way” tour in collaboration with the USO.
Trevor Romain provided a comedy-based educational presentation that highlighted life strategies for military children. He talked with approximately 2,500 Mountain Post students in first-eighth grades, according to event organizer Doug Lehman, Fort Carson Family Advocacy Program treatment provider.
“I’m really excited to be here,” said Romain with an English accent that advertised his South African upbringing. He also lived in England and Australia prior to settling down in Austin, Texas. The slender, upbeat motivational speaker describes himself as “Monty Python meets Dr. Seuss at Jerry Seinfeld’s house in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.”
“Thank you for being military kids because you’re changing the world,” he said during his 55-minute presentations at Carson Middle School. “There are
a lot of kids in America who don’t understand what you’re going through. What we’re going to do here today is help you figure that all out.”
An experience with an injured boy in Africa evoked his interest in supporting children in difficult situations. Romain says he “encourages kids to express their feelings so they can get the help they need.” He teaches them to find ways to channel their feelings, to include creative arts and journal writing.
Romain spoke about reinforcing self confidence, improving academic achievements and finding the courage to discuss difficulties. He has created more than 50 self-help children’s books. Fort Carson’s youth grinned – many giggled – at the titles of his books “Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain” and “How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up.”
“We want to urge you to support each other,” said Romain after explaining an event at the Special Olympics. A relay of runners had rushed to the finish line when one tripped and fell, and then fought to get up. Instead of defeating their weakened opponent, the other runners stopped to lend a hand. Together, the group walked to the finish line.
“We want kids to become more compassionate with each other,” he said. “It’s really easy to walk past someone and dog them out. It’s much harder to do something nice, to stand up for somebody that’s being put down.
“We’re giving kids the tools to understand and work with each other,” he said, explaining that children often feel angry about missed birthdays and holidays due to a parent’s deployment. “We want them to know its OK to be angry, frustrated, sad – it’s what they do with those emotions that matters.
“When something is on your mind, troubling you, tell someone you trust,” said Romain to his young audiences inside school auditoriums. He also spoke with children of wounded Soldiers at the Warrior Transition Unit.
Numerous students approached Romain after his presentations. They requested further advice about bullies, divorce and depression, he said. A seventh-grader said he helped her realize the importance of assisting others, and then an eighth-grader with Down syndrome thanked him with a hug.
Another eighth-grader approached him with several of her friends. They collectively asked how to cope with the death of a family member. Romain expressed his empathy for her emotional pain and wrote down her teacher’s name. Next week, he said, she’ll receive a complimentary copy of his episode “What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?”
Romain is sending Fort Carson schools about 2,000 “With You All the Way” tour kits, each paid for by the USO. The boxes will contain interactive journals and six episodes selected for military children in sixth grade and below. He also gave out e-mail addresses to send messages to “Sky” and “Jack,” the supportive cartoon characters in his videos.
Children clapped and cheered after watching a compilation video based on the kit, which focused on routine exercise, eating healthy, finishing homework, facing fears, defeating bullies, building friendships and supporting military Families. A sixth grader shouted “That was the best movie ever.”
Romain adjusted his presentation for specific age groups. Instead of viewing the movie, seventh- and eighth-grade pupils discussed military life in an open forum. About a dozen students stood to share how they cope with a parent’s deployment.
Steve Jerman, Carson Middle School principal, commented on student attentiveness, as well as their eagerness to stay after the bell rang. He said the most influential messages covered family separations, team-oriented selflessness, handling difficult days and integrating into a new school.
“His stories hit home with the kids,” said Jerman, who plans to provide the students an opportunity to talk about the lessons learned with their homeroom teachers.