Branch: Air Force
Duty Station: USAG Humphreys
Number of Deployments: 5
Number of PCS's: 9
Share your military spouse story:
My military spouse story can be summed up perfectly by the poet Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." As a military spouse, I have traveled the world. My husband’s military service has taken us off of the continental United States for more than half of our career. It has opened opportunities I never could have dreamed of from teaching English to North Korean refuges in South Korea to empowering high school girls by organizing a 4 day strenuous backpacking trip across a massive volcano. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit this lifestyle was never a dream of mine. If someone had told me in my early twenties I would be a military spouse, I would have disagreed wholeheartedly! I had dreams of my own. I recognized at a young age the doors education can open and this propelled me to pursue a teaching career to empower the next generation. My career dreams started as a school teacher, but my hope was to climb the education ladder to school administration. And moving schools, states & countries constantly with the military was not going to help me achieve this dream. I was teaching school when I met my husband & I thought that marrying him would mean I would have to choose between the man I loved & my education dreams. What I didn’t realize was that I could have both; I just needed a paradigm shift. I didn’t need to formally pursue a career in education to help the children in my community. My degree & experience in education turned out to be a blessing to every community we have lived in. I have been able to advocate for education and teens in every place we have lived. Fast forward 24 years, 4 children, 9 duty stations & 5 deployments, and I am so grateful for the life I am living. While the road less traveled was not the one I was intending in my twenties, looking in the review mirror from my current position has shown me that traveling this road has truly made ALL the difference!
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
Being a leader isn’t necessarily a role I was looking for, but one that came naturally as I listened to spouses’ concerns in the community. Through elected positions as the School Advisory Committee (SAC) Chairperson & Installation Advisory Committee (IAC) Chairperson, I have had multiple opportunities to partner & problem solve with leadership at the installation, district, regional and even headquarters levels. My positions initially gave me the title necessary to legitimately discuss issues for our community, but the relationships I have built truly helped create lasting change. I worked with DoDEA leadership to address the lack of equity with dual enrollment funding for high school students in DoDEA schools. This issue is now being discussed at DoDEA HQ level as a funding item for the DoD budget. I also successfully created pathways for our foreign military dependent members to have registration issues resolved, an issue creating readiness problems for the United Nations Command.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a new military spouse, I felt like I entered a foreign world! After growing in this role I recognized the need to mentor other spouses through this process. Offering opportunities for service can help new spouses, especially those who are struggling finding employment. Most recently in Korea I have partnered with Korea’s Ambassador to the UN for Sustainable Tourism. Together we host an English reading program for multicultural children to teach them English skills as a good neighbor program between our military base and Korea. All of our volunteers in this program are military spouses or family members. Additionally, I am the Vice President for the entire Korea chapter of a religious organization called the Relief Society. This covers all women associated with each major military installation (7) in Korea. We serve these women by finding them friends when they arrive, providing education and information upon arrival, & watching over them while they are living here.
Describe how you support your community:
A big part of supporting the community is being a good listener & mentor. Listening to issues and sharing advocating pathways helps open doors to positive change. I recently sat on a readiness board for the United Nations Command to understand the issues that can improve experiences in Korea. This board brought awareness to issues foreign military dependents were having with schools and resulted in my advocacy efforts to change law surrounding DoDEA registration. It can be too easy to adopt the “embrace the suck” attitude. Instead we must find ways to advocate for positive changes! We lost our 4th child after a heart-lung transplant as my husband was preparing for his 6th deployment. I learned life is too short to be unhappy. For a decade we have been inviting our community to participate in JakesMiles, in honor of our son, to help other families with transplant issues. Because of the military, our participating community extends across 5 continents!
What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for building a seat at the education table for military families – especially in overseas Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools. There is a misunderstanding that DoDEA schools understand the needs of military families better than any other schools because they are created only to serve military students. However, raising needs in these schools, especially overseas, is more difficult than it should be. Pathways of accountability and transparency are lacking. The same issues have been raised for decades with no relief. Our military children involuntarily sacrifice their lives alongside their parents as their military parents put their lives on the line to keep our nation, and the world, safe and free. Creating better advocacy routes for our military families in DoDEA schools can help ensure the schools created for them are meeting their needs. This is crucial to thanking our military children and their service members for all they sacrifice.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
A mentor taught me that powerful change happens in two ways: education & relationships. I have worked to develop relationships that bring awareness to education needs of military children. Communication is always key to advocacy. I have worked with military leaders to speak at multiple town halls, AFN to do radio commercials, and Stars and Stripes for news articles. I am currently working with local DoDEA leadership to create a student advisory committee and with lobby groups to raise awareness for a DoDEA Headquarters (HQ) Advisory Committee for parents. We currently have no parent or student representation at the DoDEA HQ level. I have raised important issues through several one-on-one meetings with various DoDEA leadership at every level from school to national. I was also accepted into the highly selective Military Spouse Leadership Development Program. This helped me develop more leadership skills & build new relationships. These relationships opened even greater advocacy routes
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
For years, education has been one of the top challenges for military families. Most military children move between 6-9 times before they graduate. How are we meeting their needs? We need to address this issue head-on. Receiving the AFI Military Spouse of the Year title would be an incredible opportunity to do just that! I am passionate about improving education for our military families. Advocacy routes for improvement are available, but it takes networking. And living overseas in a foreign country can make networking challenging. This title could help bridge the gap between policy makers and military families. Additionally, I am excited to meet the other AFI Military Spouse of the Year recipients. I am sure they could provide amazing mentorship for affecting change.
Kim’s most recent PCS has brought her to Korea for a second time. Since her arrival, she has offered her leadership skills in our community by leading & assisting with our Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, cultural programs, & church. Kim serves as the Humphreys High School Chairperson for the School Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Installation Advisory Committee (IAC). Both committees are volunteer-driven & consist of teachers & parents that aim to support, shape, & advise the school principal and garrison leaders on installation-related matters. Kim is a proponent that advocacy is caring, not complaining. She focuses her advocacy on continuous improvement and being the change agent to further represent and stabilize the schools for military families. With Kim’s driven, facilitative, collaborative, & solution-oriented leadership, the SAC End of Year Report was full of accomplishments. Kim also completed the 2022 Military Spouse Leadership Development Program.
- by Carolyn Pickering