“A Walk in My Shoes” brings insight to students affiliated with military families


Students filed into Forum Hall in the K-State Student Union to be seated around military service men and women, including Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, Wednesday afternoon. The room was abuzz with talk about how educators should best serve students affected by military families through the documentary, “A Walk In My Shoes: Military Families.”

“A Walk In My Shoes: Military Life” was funded and sanctioned through the College of Education, using an idea from Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education.

“We have a moral obligation to prepare our future educators, who are doing their practicums in Geary County, Manhattan and Fort Riley schools and in close contact with students directly affected by the military, to be prepared with the knowledge of how to handle students in military families,” Mercer said. “We want to continue to prepare our [college] students with knowledge and skills to do a high-quality job once they are out in their own teaching careers.”

“I think this documentary is powerful,” Daniel Potucek, senior in secondary education and a member of the documentary, said. “Learning about all of the other life experiences that the other people had, it made me feel less alone. In the military, you and your brothers become connected and become a family of sorts. This [movie] shows how even in civilian life, it still almost feels like a military community.”

The documentary told the stories of seven different people, including current K-State students who served, grew up in a military family, or are now retired from service and returned to school. It also featured professional educators who work in the field, teaching others about how to be prepared for students affiliated with the military.

“[This documentary] was our story,” Funk said. “There was a lot of courage to produce it and a vision to lay it all out there.”

K-State and Fort Riley recently resigned a contract for continued support and collaboration between the campus and the Fort Riley post. The College of Education is personifying this movement by placing undergraduate students in Fort Riley schools for their senior year practicums. Faculty within the College of Education also take tours of Fort Riley schools to better understand the climate of military schools.

Last year, the “A Walk in My Shoes” video focused around international graduate students. Patrice Scott, communications coordinator for the College of Education, said she wanted to take the success from that event and transfer it over into this year’s documentary. With more than 100 people in attendance, as well as the documentary being viewable for free on the College of Education’s website, she said she believes the event was successful.

“When we were planning this documentary we asked, ‘Who do we select for this project? Whose stories are chosen?'” Scott said. “Seven people were chosen. The result was such a powerful and moving piece. It’s so hard to put it into words.”

Before the kickoff of a larger initiative to support students in military families through the College of Education, Mercer said this documentary puts impact and a personal touch into the entire initiative. According to Mercer, the college addresses a lot of different forms of diversity, but military families weren’t a specific part of that.

“We are creating educational modules exemplifying military culture and student resiliency,” Mercer said. “The military culture is not always something we think about. This is a visible component for students to show how important and critical work with military families is. We want to leave a larger impact outside of just K-State to continue to make sure these types of issues are included in the discussion.”

Audience members watched the documentary for free and had the chance to listen to a panel of community educators who have been directly affected by military families. Panelists Ronald Walker,

superintendent of the Geary County School District USD 475, said that more than 70 percent of his school district are military affiliated.

“I hope people take away from this the understanding that it is not just the soldier who serves, but the whole family serves as well,” Potucek said. “It’s our responsibility as community members to take care of them [military families] and make them feel welcome in our part of the world.”