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Elementary school social worker providing support group to students with families in the military



TOPEKA, Kan. — The Indian Hill Elementary School social worker is making sure kids with a family member in the military have a space to go when needed, even encouraging kids to give back to those serving.

Kara Burton is an eight-year-old girl in the second grade at Indian Hills Elementary School. For Burton, some days might be a little tough as she waits for dad to come back home.

“My dad, he’s deployed right now,” Burton said. “He’s in the military and he’s going to be gone for a few more months. It’s really hard for me. When I was little, I used to have a lot of fun with him. He would take us to the park and stuff. And now we don’t do that anymore.”

Burton isn’t alone. She’s actually a part of a support group with 13 other students at Indian Hills who have a family member in the military, a support group started by the school’s social worker, Katie Metzger. Metzger started the Military Support Group about three years ago. They do many activities to keep the kids busy and active even volunteering to help local Marines with Toys For Tots each year.

“We have to have the needs met,” Metzger said. “And if we can help out with that at school…I do individual sessions with some of the kids when some of their parents are gone. This week we made homemade lotion. It’s just little things that I can use my time and give back to the kids and families.”

This year, Metzger came up with an idea to show local Marines how special they are to the support group. She got in contact with a former student to make a wooden flag for the Marine’s Topeka office. Then, the kids got to leave their mark.

“So each one of them was able to sign the back,” Metzger said. “And we put the year on it so it will be something lasting that the kids know is there.”

While they’re showing their appreciation to the Marines branch of the military, Metzger wants all of her kids to know they have someone to help them and their family, making sure none of them are alone during a difficult time in their lives.

“Some are gone just here in the United States, and some are across our seas,” Metzger said. “So it’s just making sure that whatever the families need that we’re here to support them.”

The group presented the flag to the Marines on Monday. This year, they weren’t able to help with Toys for Tots the way they usually do because of the pandemic. However, these families made sure they helped no matter what. So the students and their families went out to help on their own, filling bags for kids.

“Just a big thank you,” Sergeant Joshua Smith said. “Without them, without their families, we would not have had a successful year as we did.”

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