Hillside Elementary School
I am passionate about my service to military children and families not only
because you give so much and deserve so much in return but, also, because it
is my life too.
I have 25 years experience working in, and with, the Army community. I was a
soldier myself, an Army spouse, and raised our 2 children in many different
duty stations around the world while my husband was on active duty.
I have worked on Ft. Lewis, as a school counselor, for the past 8 years.
I have a Master's degree in Counseling and Community Psychology and an
Essential Staff Associate (ESA) Certificate
Sandy Bonvouloir, 50, Olympia, elementary-school counselor
Sandy Bonvouloir's main focus — indeed, her constant passion — is helping the
children of soldiers cope with their fears.
It's been that way since her first week as a newly-minted elementary-school
counselor on the Fort Lewis military post — a career that began the very week
of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In the aftermath, as soldiers were sent to Afghanistan and then Iraq, her
students struggled with anxieties most kids need never shoulder.
"The hardest time is when a parent gets injured — like loses a leg," a fifth-
grader explained during recess. "If they're hurt, I'm hurt."
Bonvouloir estimates that half the nearly 1,900 grade-school students on the
military post have a parent in Iraq.
As the war continued, students had behavior problems, depression and were
emotionally fragile. Helping them become resilient became crucial.
"When a family member deploys, the family is turned upside down," Bonvouloir
said. "The school is the only stable force in their lives. They rely on that
Twice a week in a special classroom at Hillside Elementary School, Bonvouloir
helps kids identify a range of feelings beyond mad, sad and glad. She helps
them judge the intensity of those emotions and to use positive thoughts and
actions such as drawing, laughing or dancing to feel better.
Bonvouloir has filled the classroom with practical tools: a poster on how to
keep in touch with mom or dad; a globe to locate where they've gone; a bar
graph that shows way more troops come home safely than don't, and books with
titles such as, "Mommy, You're My Hero."
"We pass around the tissues, too," one fifth-grader observed. "People are
The rest of the time Bonvouloir gives hugs on the playground, provides one-on-
one guidance, fields a hundred questions and handles small crises. She
reminds the children that they, too, are serving the country as "everyday
heroes" — people of courage even when scared. Through it all, she's learned
that kids can bounce back from tough experiences — if they can talk about
This caretaker of so many tender emotions must care for herself as well —
with affirmations, exercise and an occasional good cry. She keeps it together
on the job, but the children's pain is in her heart when she leaves.
Friends ask how she stands the work. It comes down to hope and faith: She has
to believe the children will survive, and that their challenges are part of a
She's now helping one boy, whose dad died in Iraq, simply by being someone he
can talk to and trust. "I just need to be with him. He's going to make it."
— Marsha King