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Pilot program on Fort Bliss geared to help military kids work through unique challenges facing them

By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- Being a teenager is difficult, but military teens face an extra set of challenges.

A program being piloted on Fort Bliss hopes to bring the resilience skills to these kids to better prepare them for the future.

"Definitely the biggest challenge I've had was moving to El Salvador. Like everyone mostly moves to Germany or Korea. But I moved to El Salvador and it's a Spanish speaking country and I don't speak Spanish so it was a really big challenge for me," said Armando Gutierrez, whose father is stationed at Fort Bliss.

Once a week, Armando comes to the Milam Youth Activities Center on post and a part of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program.

"Teens are handling a lot of challenges and then a military teen has additional challenges of deployments, has additional challenges of multiple moves, getting to know new friends. We've really been focused on soldiers and adults but we realized that there was a gap. That our teens needed those same skills," said Col. Wil McCauley, director of the Ready Resilience Center on Fort Bliss.

Kim Crowell is one of the master resilience trainers who teaches the courses.

"We sat down and developed a program that we're implementing right now, performance skills, so how do they get better at their everyday tasks?" Crowell said.

Crowell said the classes focus on anything from help on a school exam to help on a driving test.

"We try not to make it like school. We try to get them moving, up and around, a lot of discussion, a lot of small groups, and really just 'how can I use this skill right now in my life?' Crowell said.

Etienne Bridell, 12, is one of the younger ones in the program.

"My goal is to go to college and they're helping me a lot, like telling me to take AP classes and do extra work and stuff. It's like really helping me," Bridell said.

She said being around those who share her same challenges makes getting through them easier.

"Since we are teaching these same skills to their parents, to soldiers, we've now created this common language where our students can go home, sit at the dinner table, talk about what they learned," Crowell said.

The program is currently being offered to military kids 12-18 years old.

The second part of the program starts in March.

It's currently being studied and once the pilots are finished, will likely eventually make its way to more installations across the country.