Upperman High awarded Tennessee Purple Star School Award status

UHS Principal Billy Stepp; Deanna McLaughlin, Representative of Tennessee Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission; Breeonna Wheeler, Assistant Principal at UHS; Ross Fanning, Assistant Principal at UHS; and Deb Munis, representative of Purple Star Award Program.

PUTNAM COUNTY – Upperman High School has been awarded the 2021 Tennessee Purple Star School Award (PSSA). This is the first time Upperman has received the award, and it is the only high school in the Upper Cumberland region to receive this status. The PSSA is designated to military-friendly schools that display a major commitment to serving military-connected families and students.

The Purple Star School Award is a partnership between the Tennessee State Board of Education and the Tennessee Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (TN-MIC3). In 2021, 18 schools were awarded the PSSA. 

“We are honored to have earned the Purple Star School Award,” said UHS Principal Billy Stepp. “Upperman is committed to prioritizing assistance and support for children of military families. We have learned that children in military families experience different challenges as they sometimes move often which means they move and have to adapt to a new school and community. Their parents may be deployed or away, and we know that when a family member serves, the whole family serves. So, we have made efforts in our schools to make them feel at home and meet those students where they are as well bring awareness to our student population about military families and what they face.” 

Upperman High School currently has 60 military students in their school. Several events were implemented throughout the school year dedicated to bringing military family awareness. A Veterans Monument also lives on campus that holds over 600 names of Baxter Seminary and Upperman High School alumni and students who served in the military. 

“Upperman Day with Local Service Members is where we invite local service members that currently serve in the Middle Tennessee area to our football homecoming celebration,” said Breeonna Wheeler, Assistant Principal at UHS. “Recruiters join us in school festivities with obstacles and challenges to try to engage students in conversation with active-duty military members.

“Operation Lift Spirits was another awesome event where our BETA club wrote over 300 cards to those serving in the military to show their appreciation and lift their spirits,” Wheeler added. “We do a Veterans’ Day program each year as well as celebrate Military Child Month all in April with spirit days, military child breakfast, etc., and most importantly, Purple Up Day, the annual observance allowing us to celebrate military kids. It is amazing to see the whole school come together, and these students realize they are not alone.” 

Upperman High School received a special banner to display in their building, as well as a signed letter from Gov. Bill Lee. They will have to reapply every two years to maintain the recognition status. Schools, like Upperman High School, have to meet specific criteria to be eligible for the award. The criteria must include:

  • Having a Point of Contact (POC) within the school that has completed a professional development component specific to the needs of military-connected students.
  • The school website must contain a page that provides resources for military families.
  • The school then chooses an additional activity that aligns with the school’s population and goals.
  • For families, the designation will help guide them to schools that have support efforts in place.

“Military families should be proud and not feel like they need to hide that they’re military. Upperman did two events (Upperman Day and Purple Up Day), that show military pride and really sets them apart,” said Deb Munis, presenter of the Purple Star Award Program. “Their school came together to celebrate as a whole. What Upperman has done is joyful and worthy of celebrating.” 

For a complete list of winners, visit https://www.tn.gov/sbe/committees-and-initiatives/military-interstate-children-s-compact-tennessee-state-council–mic3-/pssa.html.

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