Harmony Salinas, counselor at Wood River Elementary, was recently presented with something that is very familiar to many families around the Coastal Bend. Salinas was made aware of several students recently who had fathers who deployed with the United States Army. According to Salinas, these students were having a rough time adjusting to life with their father not at home.

“I really rely on the teachers to help me spot those kids that need a little extra time to visit with me,” said Salinas.

A third grade teacher was concerned about one her students, Jade Richardson. Richardson’s father had recently deployed and she was understandably upset. That same day, a parent called her about another student who’s father had also deployed. A second grader was also dealing with the changes of having a deployed parent.

“I called both students into my office to visit. I wanted them to know that they were not alone,” said Salinas.

This meeting left Salinas wondering what else she could do for her students. Being a former classroom teacher, she knew how important it was to make connections with hurting kids. She did what all struggling artists do and went to Pinterest to find something that she could do to bring joy to these children and to ease the transition to deployment.

She found the idea of making pillow cases with a picture of the deployed parent, letting kids keep their loved one close no matter how far they were. She ordered these cases, and along with the administration at Wood River Elementary and their financial support, she had them made for each of the students she had been visiting with, three in all. Richardson had a younger brother in first grade.

“I asked the mothers to send me a picture of the children’s father, preferably in uniform,” said Salinas.

Once the pillowcases were ready, she presented this special gift to each student.

“These kids need their basic, human needs met before they can be educated,” explained Salinas.

Taking the need to be loved and feel secure to heart is a reason why Salinas left the classroom and became a counselor. She spends her days doing guidance lessons with each classroom and focusing her time on kids that need an ear to listen and with a campus of about 600 kids, Salinas is never short of little ones who need her.