CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
First lady Laura Bush shook hands yesterday with guests at a panel at Camp Smith where she met with wives and dependents of military personnel on housing and transition issues. CLICK FOR LARGE
Radford students school first lady
Mrs. Bush hears how military kids get help making the transition
Minutes before first lady Laura Bush entered the conference room, the three Radford High School students nervously checked their hair.
The three were about to make a presentation on their transitional program, which helps new students, especially military dependents, make the transition into the local culture and state.
Lead facilitators Corrine Bonifacio and Kimberly Kisner had been preparing, even having a sleep-over to work on their presentation.
"We've done a lot of presentations before, but not for anyone as important as Mrs. Bush," Bonifacio, 17, said.
Bush entered the conference room at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith at about 8:40 a.m. yesterday, where military spouses, officials and the students discussed transition issues.
After receiving a lei from 16-year-old Marquis Johnson, also from Radford, Bush sat down and thanked everyone.
Col. Joe Pedone, director for manpower, personnel and administration at the U.S. Pacific Command, outlined a $3.6 billion plan to renovate government housing in Hawaii, which would take up to 10 years.
He also outlined Hawaii's Joint Venture Education Forum, which started in 1999 to help serve more than 40,000 students from military families.
The forum uses $5.5 million appropriated annually by Congress to fund various education programs including Radford's transition program.
Johnson introduced the program to Bush, but not before introducing himself and saying, "You are even more beautiful in person," inciting laughter around the room.
The program has at least 200 students, with three military-dependent students joining almost every day. About 70 percent of Radford High's students are military dependents, said program coordinator Jan Ikeda.
The students stressed that although most involved are military dependents, it also caters to students new to the state or city.
"Every school ought to have that," Bush said. "What you are doing is really a model of what schools can do everywhere."
"What about employment?" Bush asked. "Can military spouses get jobs as teachers?"
Ikeda said the school actively tries to recruit military wives.
Bush also wanted to hear more about the Troops to Teachers program, which so far has graduated 59 troops who are teaching in Hawaii.
However, time ran out and she had to leave.
"Thank you all very much," Bush said. "Thank you all for what you're doing. This is a great idea to talk about."
Bonifacio said the trio found out Friday that they would be making the presentation to Bush.
"I was like, 'Wow, are you serious?!' " said the 17-year-old Kisner.
Bonifacio said she thinks the trio left a lasting impression on the first lady about the program, which she hopes would be emulated elsewhere.
"We really want to get the word out for this program," Bonifacio said. "We hope this will help."