First Lady Biden Honors Knob Noster Community for Supporting Military Families

First+Lady+Jill+Biden+waves+to+Knob+Noster+students+and+teachers%2C+distinguished+guests+from+the+community+and+JROTC+students+as+she+steps+onstage.

Emma Fischer

First Lady Jill Biden waves to Knob Noster students and teachers, distinguished guests from the community and JROTC students as she steps onstage.

By Emma Fischer, University of Central Missouri

  First Lady Jill Biden visited Knob Noster schools on Wednesday, April 13 to honor the children of military families and Knob Noster’s strong community support for these families.

  Christine Sturgill, a senior at Knob Noster, introduced the First Lady. Her father is in the Air Force, and she has been in three different school systems throughout her education.

  “The most unique thing about Knob Noster is not anything that can be captured on paper,” Sturgill said. “The greatest thing about Knob is the people … I haven’t been in any other school where the lunch ladies know everyone’s name or the principal will come to a track workout and be teaching people how to hurdle. It’s such a close-knit community, and that is truly unique.”

  Though high school can be a challenging time for many young adults, military children face different challenges because of their parents’ work. Military children often move around the country and live in different places around the world throughout their education, which can make it difficult for them to feel like they have a community that is their own. Knob Noster was recognized not only for its strong academic programs, but also for its community support for military families.

  “It seems like you’ve either been here six months or you were born here — there’s not a lot of in-between,” Sturgill said.“But the Knobbies, as they call themselves, provide the backbone of our school.”

  Sherri Stiles, wife of an Air Force pilot and mother of a Knob Noster student, said that the inclusion of military children was very intentional on the school’s administration. 

  Stiles’ daughter, Alli, attended the First Lady’s speech. Stiles grew up in Warrensburg but has since lived in New Mexico and Louisiana before her father was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster.

  “[The First Lady] coming to Knob is actually a really big thing for us,” Stiles said. “It was a really big thing for Knob to get recognized for all the things they’ve done for military students.”

  Stiles was excited to see the First Lady, but said that the student population of Knob Noster was split because of their political views.

  “I did notice that beforehand there were a lot of people who were going to the assembly who were like, ‘I don’t really like her, I don’t really like that she’s coming to our school,’” Stiles said. 

  She said that after the First Lady spoke and recognized the strong community Knob Noster had built around supporting military families, many students were more appreciative of the recognition and the First Lady’s visit.

To all the students here with families in the military, you’re among the more than two million kids across America with a mom or dad who either currently serves or has served in our armed forces. Your parents are courageous. So are you, and you deserve a round of applause.”

— Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

  UCM alumna Abby Frandsen is a preschool teacher for Knob Noster’s pre-kindergarten program, named Little Wingmen. She was the only teacher whose classroom was visited by the First Lady. The First Lady participated in a craft activity in which Frandsen’s three and four-year-old students learned about different farm animals.

  Frandsen said she was excited to see the First Lady, and that she was awed by the First Lady’s interaction with her students.

  “I’ve never met anyone I would consider famous or a celebrity,” Frandsen said. “Everyone tells you she’s just another person … Then she comes in, and there’s just this glow. And you’re overwhelmed, but watching the kids interact with her, it really was a beautiful thing because to me she’s not just another person.”

  Frandsen said that the Secret Service and the school’s administration were very specific on how the First Lady’s visit would go. Frandsen said there was tape on the floor and she was given specific instructions for how she was supposed to facilitate the activity and the interaction between her students and the First Lady. 

  “With three and four year olds, you cannot predict them,” Frandsen said.

  Frandsen said she thought the way the First Lady interacted with young students was beautiful. She told stories of the First Lady sharing a tiny chair with one of the students, listening as one of them told her what sounds farm animals make. Frandsen said one moment that touched her was when a three-year-old held out her boots to the First Lady and announced that they were her “fancy boots”. In return, the First Lady showed the three-year-old her own “fancy” shoes.

  “It’s that beautiful innocence that they really do think she’s just another person,” Frandsen said. “Watching them interact with her, I thought was just incredible.”

  Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona also visited Knob Noster with the First Lady. He gave a speech at Knob Noster High school, addressing the military children of the school. 

  “To all the students here with families in the military, you’re among the more than two million kids across America with a mom or dad who either currently serves or has served in our armed forces,” Cardona said. “Your parents are courageous. So are you, and you deserve a round of applause.”

This story was originally published on Muleskinner on April 28, 2022.