Alexandra Skrocki, 17, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a senior at Admiral Arthur W. Radford High School, has hosted an annual "Back to School Teen Party" in her backyard for the past four years to welcome new students from military families to her community and ease their anxiety about starting at a new school. Alexandra has always tried to make things easier for military families like hers, with activities such as preparing home-cooked meals for single airmen, mentoring children of deployed parents, and baking holiday cookies for active duty men and women. At her high school, 60 percent of the students are military dependents, which means there are always kids coming and going, Alexandra said. She certainly knows what it's like to be the "new kid," having attended eight different schools over the course of 13 years. As a result, Alexandra decided to start her own service project "to make sure military teens attending a new high school felt included in their new social circle."
Alexandra invites new and current students and their parents to her party by distributing flyers throughout the neighborhood. Then, on the afternoon before the first day of school, she and her family welcome attendees to their backyard and serve pizza and beverages. Alexandra organizes ice-breaker games to encourage students to talk to one another, asks teens to write down their names and phone numbers on a poster as a way of exchanging information among their new acquaintances, and provides a question-and-answer session. Parents are invited for the last hour of the three-hour event to meet each other and find out more about the high school. Alexandra estimates that about 70 military teens and their parents have attended her parties. "The most memorable part is seeing the teens arrive quiet and unsure of what is yet to come, then seeing them leave energized and excited about their first day at a new high school," said Alexandra.