Military organization salutes remarkable Fort Smith – Arkansas Catholic school

Christ the King Receives Purple Star Designation for Caring for Military Families

Posted: December 13, 2021

Courtesy of Christ the King School

The Christ the King School Choir sings during the Fort Smith Veterans Day Parade at Chaffee Crossing on November 13.

Christ the King School has achieved a designation that no other school in Fort Smith or any Catholic school in the state can claim.

It was designated a Purple Star School on Nov. 18 by the Arkansas State Council of the Interstate Military Commission for the Covenant for Children. Recognition is a way of honoring schools that prioritize helping children of military families.

School librarian Brandi Simpson, whose husband Major Seth Simpson serves in the 188th Air National Guard Wing, coordinated the school’s certification efforts, including the creation of a family resource page military personnel on the school website, becoming a school military liaison, establishing a transition program for students and organizing military recognition events.

“We moved here from South Dakota four years ago and immediately enrolled our children in Christ the King School,” said Simpson. “Our oldest child is now in seventh grade at Trinity Catholic School, and we have a fifth grade and two preschoolers at Christ the King. While we have never found a school so welcoming, I knew the unique challenges military families face and was happy and excited to offer this program at our school.

“Some kids are more resilient, some aren’t. Moving around a lot can affect learning. Sometimes they’ll need a little extra help with school, socialization, or emotions, and it’s good to be able to give them those resources and be aware. “

“We recently had a student whose father had just returned from a deployment. I made sure the teacher knew and had all the resources she needed to help the student. I also contacted the mother.

Simpson’s two older children moved four times, and her husband was deployed several times during his early years with the Air National Guard.

“Some kids are more resilient, some aren’t,” she said. “Moving around a lot can affect learning. Sometimes they’ll need a little extra help with school, socialization, or emotions, and it’s good to be able to give them those resources and be aware.

“When a new family comes in, I welcome them,” Simpson said. “I talk to the parents, I ask them if there is anything I can do to help, reach out and make sure everything is going well.”

Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith was recently designated as the future location of an international pilot training center supporting F-16 and F-35 fighter jets. More than 345 military personnel will move to Fort Smith with around 300 dependents, as well as more than 180 members of a military unit from Singapore.

“We have 13 children at Christ the King whose parents are in the military now, but we expect that number to increase,” said Katie Kratzberg, director of development. “We also have students whose parents are veterans. “

Principal Myndi Keyton said Christ the King has a needs-based financial aid program that military and non-military families can apply for. It is a Reform Alliance school and the Succeed Arkansas scholarship program for children with special needs has been expanded to include children of the military. The Succeed scholarships cover 100 percent of the tuition fees for approved applicants.

Christ the King designates a day of Kindness Week to reach out to veterans. This year, students wrote thank you notes to service members deployed overseas. On Veterans Day, the school held a special assembly where members of veterans of foreign wars spoke about their personal experiences in the military. The students made cards for the veterans and brought them to the Veterans Administration.

“This year, the Fort Smith History Museum made a tank for the veterans and asked our students to create posters to decorate the interior of the tank,” Keyton said. “Our students went to Fort Chaffee for the Veterans Day parade and sang songs during the festival.”

Simpson hopes that the city’s other two Catholic schools – Trinity Catholic and Immaculate Conception – will also become Purple Star schools.

“In this way, the Catholic schools in Fort Smith will be a Purple Star district,” she said. “I spoke to the Immaculate Conception Librarian, who is also a military wife, and I think both schools might be interested.”

For more information on Christ the King Military Family Outreach Programs, visit

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