By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity
Of the more than 1.3 million service members in the military, thousands of them are stationed overseas, and often their families are with them. When that’s the case, you may have wondered, where do their kids go to school?
That’s where the Department of Defense Education Activity comes in.
DoDEA (dough-dee-ah, as we pronounce it) is a federally operated school system for students of all grades whose families are part of the Defense Department – military or civilian. And it’s a big system. About 15,000 people work for DoDEA and serve more than 72,000 students at 166 schools in 11 foreign countries, seven states and in Guam and Puerto Rico.
The History of Military Schools
While schools for kids stationed at military installations have been around since the early 1800s, schools for students living overseas weren’t created until shortly after World War II. Those schools in Europe and the Pacific were initially run by each installation’s main service branch, but as the number of schools began to grow, they needed help. So administration was transferred to civilian managers and organized into two systems: one that served students overseas and one that focused inside the U.S.
Fun fact: In case you’re curious why it’s called an “activity,” and not an “agency” or something else, that’s because it technically operates as a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
A Unique Perspective
Military kids are used to moving to new locations. When it comes to ones that are overseas, many of them welcome it.
“Living over here is a great opportunity to really get involved in the culture and to see a different part of the world that, if I were still living in America, I wouldn’t be able to experience,” said Elise Lemire, a high school sophomore whose family is stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Elise has visited 39 countries and has changed schools six times – some in the DoDEA system, some in public schools – from Texas to California, then to Heidelberg, Germany (“The best experience of my life,” she said) and back to Texas before heading to Japan.
While military outsiders might see that as a detriment to making friends, she sees it as a great advantage.
“I’ve been able to meet so many different people, and I’m still friends with them, whether they’re still in Europe or back in the states,” she said, mentioning when she joined a DoDEA tennis program in Japan. “I actually met somebody who I first met in Europe. We got to reunite because of the military, and I think that’s a beautiful part of what the military does.”
Elise attends Yokota High School with Jalen Harrison, a senior who lived in Germany, Italy and Las Vegas with his military family before spending his entire high school career at Yokota. Like Elise, he believes the diversity he’s learned have given him a major advantage.
“As a DoDEA student, you get to meet a whole lot of different people – people with different mindsets than you,” he said. “You get to be more open-minded because of the people you meet.”
We certainly don’t think that’s a bad thing!
To find out more about DoDEA schools, click on the links above.
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