25th ID CSM family finds new academic home in Wahiawa

| May 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

DOE spotlights an outstanding military family during HMAM
Department of Education

Photo courtesy Hawaii State Department of Education WAIKIKI — Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones (second from right) and wife Leah (center), along with children (from left) Madelyn, Tanner and McKenzie, are adjusting to life in Hawaii after relocating from Texas, last year.

Photo courtesy Hawaii State Department of Education
WAIKIKI — Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones (second from right) and wife Leah (center), along with children (from left) Madelyn, Tanner and McKenzie, are adjusting to life in Hawaii after relocating from Texas, last year.

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After only 11 months in Texas, the Jones family was notified last July they were being relocated to Hawaii.

“My first thought was, ‘we’ve been here not even a year, and we’re moving again?’” said Leah Jones. “My second wave of thoughts went to the rumors that Hawaii schools are so far behind the mainland.”

Apprehensive about daughters McKenzie and Madelyn, Leah got on the phone and reached out to other Army families who had children enrolled at Leilehua High School. She was pleased to learn rumors about Hawaii schools were just misperceptions.

The initial phone calls to other families marked the beginning of a smooth transition to Hawaii, according to Leah, whose husband is Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, the senior enlisted leader of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. Their daughters McKenzie, a senior, and Madelyn, a junior, attend Leilehua, while firstborn child Tanner is a senior at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.

Leah also credits the Schofield’s School Liaison Office and the Leilehua registrar’s office for their help in working to get her daughters registered in time to start school in August.

Leilehua is the Jones girls’ third school in a matter of years: McKenzie and Madelyn began with a school in Carthage, New York, then moved to Killeen High in Killeen, Texas, before arriving at Leilehua. But Leah says the transition to Leilehua has been further helped by some of its outstanding teachers.

“A few who come to mind right away are Mr. Wetzel, Mrs. Paz and Mr. Ruff,” she said. “All three of these teachers have a classroom atmosphere that is inviting, and they encourage students to participate and (are) always available for extra tutoring, if needed. In fact, I can honestly say that the tutoring that is available here at Leilehua is more than my girls have experienced in any other of the two states we have lived.”

While both girls are Advanced Placement and honors students, they’re excelling outside of the classroom, as well. Both McKenzie and Madelyn are on the Mules’ varsity soccer team, and Leah said soccer coaches Erin Chow and Matt Smithe welcomed the girls from day one, which was very comforting for the entire Jones family.

During their free time, the Joneses immerse themselves in the local culture and lifestyle.

“Our family loves to go on local hikes. The scenery on Oahu is breathtaking from so many different areas,” Leah said. “We enjoy walking around Chinatown and trying new noodle shops and shopping at local produce stands.”

Leah said Wahiawa eateries like Sunnyside, Dot’s and Shige’s are among the family’s favorites. When their son Tanner visited during the holidays, the family took a catamaran trip around Diamond Head.

Her daughters aren’t the only ones who seem to be making the most of their time at Leilehua. During the school day, Leah serves as the parent facilitator for Leilehua’s Parent Community Networking Center, and she thrives on the opportunity to see her girls’ new high school from a “very personal and insider’s view.”

Leah said, through her job, she has been able to meet many community members who play a vital role at Leilehua.

“I can say that I have worked with the local Lions Club in Wahiawa, Surfing the Nations, 2-27th Infantry from Schofield Barracks and Island Palm Communities (the housing management for Schofield Barracks),” Leah said.

“Each of these organizations have given in some way to Leilehua, be it participating in Career Day, judging for senior projects, working with the Nakayoshi Kai Club in building a strong relationship with the Holy Family Orphanage or judging for our Mighty Mule Awardee and Minehira Scholarship of Excellence.”

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Category: Community, Education

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