College Reaches out to Children of Military Families

By D. John Bray

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Catie Rutter is a typical high school junior who, along with her family, is looking for a college in the U.S. to attend. The only difference between her and thousands of other young students in similar situations is that Catie is 4000 miles from the U.S. on a military base in Germany.

She has been to the U.S. only once in her life, a brief visit to New York City.

Rutter is a U.S. military dependent stationed with her family at Heidelberg Army Garrison and part of 84,000 Department of Defense Dependent Students (Known as DODDS students) who are spread around the world in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. There are 192 public schools in the system and all are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies.

They fall under The Department of Defense Education Activity, a civilian agency of the Department of Defense that oversees all agency functions.

These schools serve the children of military service members and Department of Defense civilian employees throughout the world. Children of enlisted military personnel represent 85 percent of the total enrollment and approximately 12,000 employees serve the “DODDS” students.

Ronald H. Dannecker, director of international recruiting at D’Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y. and a D’Youville College, initiated a recruiting initiative for DODDS students based on his experience in the military and awareness of the military high schools. He and his associate have made visits to numerous DODDS schools in Germany.

Dannecker sees his visits to the individual high schools as a benefit to the students, teachers and especially the career counselors. “As members of the military on highly secure bases they do not have the opportunity to talk with admissions people or visit colleges as you would in the U.S. They welcome the chance to talk with someone about the admission process and the finances for college.”

“It also provides a personal contact for the school career counselors and helps establish a bond with them while making the D’Youville name known in the DODDS community,” he added.

D’Youville’s goal is to have the students become aware of the college and enroll as freshmen.

“It is really an untouched recruiting market and with the significant number of DODDS students around the world, it is worth the college’s effort to develop it,” Dannecker said.

This was the second trip to the overseas schools to spread the D’Youville name and develop relationships with guidance counselors and faculty at the military schools. “I estimate it will take another visit before we start seeing students enrolling and I hope we can begin accepting five to ten a year.”

Dannecker also attended the Kaiserslautern College Night at the Special Events Center on Rhine Ordnance Barracks recently, representing D’Youville along with more that 100 other U.S. college representatives. (The majority of colleges use alumni in the area to represent them)

Approximately 1100 students and their families from DODDS schools throughout Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were on hand to gather information and talk to the representatives.

“I was busy talking with parents and their children the entire evening,” he said.

Dannecker also makes personal presentations in the classrooms of DODDS high schools including Ramstein Air Force Base, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force Europe, the U.S. Army Garrison at Heidelberg, in addition to the Kaiserslautern Military Community, the largest military community outside the continental U.S. consisting of both Army and Air Force components and the U.S. Army Garrison at Wiesbaden.

“In the classrooms, it is gratifying to see the interest the students have in attending college in the U.S.,” he said. Their questions are the same as students here although many have never been in the States even though they are American citizens. While they have lived in various parts of the world and may speak a number of languages they have some trepidation about traveling so far from their home and not knowing anyone where they are going.”

Patty O. Carden, a guidance counselor at Ramstein High School, appreciates the chance to meet and talk with “real live college representatives” and to arrange presentations for the students. “We do not get many college recruiters here on base and to have D’Youville go to the time and extensive effort to show up at our door is fantastic,” she said.

This effort is part of D’Youville’s outreach to veterans program that currently includes the college’s designation as a “Veteran Friendly School” participating in the new GI Bill, and the creation last year of a special combat veteran’s scholarship funded by the college.

“Many times the children of our military personnel overseas are overlooked and we want to make sure they are included in educational opportunities back home,” says Sister Denise A. Roche, D’Youville president.

“I’m sure our efforts will be worthwhile and I hope the students look at D’Youville and decide to enroll here.”

Catie, who is interested in biology, may apply to D’Youville. “I like their programs and the information they gave me about the college and Buffalo plus the fact they were right here talking with me made me feel better about going off to college. And I know at least one person at D’Youville.”

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