MCEC podcast
Recognizing and Supporting Our Hidden Helpers

Recognizing and Supporting Our Hidden Helpers

January 21, 2022

Join us we discuss military caregiver kids, learn the unique challenges they face, and the support services available to them. 


Show notes:

EDF_ExecSummary.pdf (



Rashi Venkataraman Romanoff 

Vice President for Programs & Partnerships  

Elizabeth Dole Foundation  

Rashi Venkataraman Romanoff serves as the Vice President for Programs & Partnerships for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, where she oversees all programs and is steering new strategic partnerships to enhance the Foundation’s reach and resources. Prior to joining the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Rashi worked at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) as their Executive Director for Prevention and Population Health. In this role, she led programs, activities, and industry-wide initiatives related to prevention, wellness, and public health and launched AHIP’s strategy to address the social determinants of health. 

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Rashi is an experienced health care professional with a demonstrated history of working in the public and private sectors. From 2010 to 2017, Rashi worked at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), starting as a Presidential Management Fellow and eventually serving as the Director of Operations for the VA Center for Strategic Partnerships. In this role, she was responsible for directing collaborative projects valued at more than $150 million to better serve our nation’s Veterans and their families. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Rashi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Public Policy and a Master’s Degree in Health Care Policy & Management. She is also the previous recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship (2008) and Presidential Management Fellowship (2010). 


Mathematica Researchers Bios

Hidden Helpers at the Frontlines of Caregiving

Cleo Jacobs Johnson

Cleo Jacobs Johnson, a developmental psychologist and qualitative researcher, leads research designed to shine a light on the people providing the essential work that is often invisible and overlooked, military and veteran caregiving families and family, friend, and neighbor childcare providers. In this work, Dr. Jacobs Johnson’s keenly invests in partnering with various stakeholders to identify strategies and solutions for promoting equitable access to systems and supports.

Dr. Jacobs Johnson’s work with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has enhanced meaning because she is a military spouse and is deeply committed to amplifying the voices of military families. Her husband, Staff Sergeant Damien Johnson, has 20 years of service in the Army and served two tours of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her family has PCSed 4 times during his career, including two cross-country moves.

Dr. Jacobs Johnson holds a PhD in Human Development and Applied Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s of Arts in Psychology from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology.


Steven Malick

Steven Malick is a researcher at Mathematica and the spouse of a veteran who served one tour of duty in Afghanistan. Mr. Malick focuses on bridging the gap between research and practice, particularly aimed at improving equitable outcomes for children, and in this context, ensuring that children in military caregiving families have full and rewarding lives. Mr. Malick specializes in working with stakeholders, educators, state officials, and staff from philanthropic organizations to understand and apply evidence in order to tackle problems of practice and make progress toward their goals. His research considers important questions about how to align complex systems to achieve desired aims.


An experienced facilitator of adult learning experiences, Mr. Malick employs human-centered design principles and continuous improvement frameworks to help stakeholders unpack the challenges they face and realize evidence-informed approaches to tackle those challenges. This work has included partnering with stakeholders to help them use and apply data and research; designing and facilitating workshops, webinars, and communities of practice; assembling expert feedback to inform clients’ efforts; and distilling research on complex topics into easy-to-read briefs and blogs. Before joining Mathematica in 2015, Mr. Malick spent nearly a decade in the public education system as a middle school math teacher and as a coach of new teachers. He has a master’s in public affairs and politics from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.


Camp Corral is Rallying to Empower Military Kids and Families to Live Their Best Life Possible

Camp Corral is Rallying to Empower Military Kids and Families to Live Their Best Life Possible

January 13, 2022

Kerry Irvin from Camp Corral discusses the importance of identifying military connected children who are also caregivers and the support available to them.



Show Notes:

Identifying if a child is a caregiver:               

Supports for caregiving children:                      

15 Things Military and Veterans’ Kids Want You to Know:


Bio: Kerry Irvin

Kerry Irvin a DoD certified Master Resilience Trainer and the Director of External Relations and Partnerships at Camp Corral, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of the children of wounded, ill, and fallen military heroes through camp, advocacy, and enrichment programs.

Kerry is the North Carolina Military Spouse of the Year and mother of four whose work in support of military families has been recognized with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Secretary of the Army’s Superior Public Service Medal.

She is a frequent guest speaker and trainer on the topics of military family well-being, resilience, emotional intelligence, growth mindset, leadership, and team building.  


Forging Ahead: MCEC 2022

Forging Ahead: MCEC 2022

January 6, 2022

Dr. Becky Porter, CEO of MCEC, reflects on 2021 and how MCEC's accomplishments will influence their direction for 2022.


Show Notes:

School Quest:

Military Student Consultant:

Purple Star Schools:

Food Insecurity:



Dr. Porter is a proven “people first” leader with more than three decades of military service. As the President and Chief Executive Officer of MCEC, she oversees a wide range of research informed initiatives and distinct programs for military and veteran-connected students, parents, and youth-serving professionals. She leads the nonprofit organization whose mission is to support all military-connected children by educating, advocating, and collaborating to resolve education challenges associated with the military lifestyle.        Dr. Porter earned the US Army Surgeon General’s “A” proficiency designator, a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Clinical Psychology, and a Master of Science degree in National Security and Strategic Studies; she is board certified in Clinical Health Psychology (American Board of Professional Psychology).

Look Beyond the Christmas Card

Look Beyond the Christmas Card

December 16, 2021

Lisa Howard from the Barry Robinson Center discusses how to take a hard year and still make it a great story.

Show Notes:



Lisa Howard has been a military spouse for 25 years.  She served as both an enlisted Soldier and officer within the United States Army Reserve.  Lisa earned a Master of Social Work in 1999 from Savannah State University.  She has two children: Lucas (21, adopted in 2002 from Baku, Azerbaijan) and Madeline (19, born in Germany).  Her family has relocated ten times for Army assignments- twice to Germany. 

Lisa has first-hand experience with the struggles associated with raising a special needs child in the military culture.  Throughout multiple moves and school transitions, she experienced the difficulties coordinating specialized education plans and supports.  Later, Lisa traversed the challenges of finding therapeutic and medical resources for her son’s mental health needs. 

Currently, Lisa is the Associate Vice President, Government Affairs & Community Engagement for The Barry Robinson Center (BRC) where she shares the mission of BRC with the military community through multiple formats.

Coasting to College Debt Free

Coasting to College Debt Free

December 9, 2021

Nya shares how joining the Coast Guard is allowing her to graduate college debt free and how she wears the uniform with the same pride as her father.


Show Notes:


Bio: Nya 

 Nya is currently a junior International Business major at Howard University and an Officer in Training (OT) in the US Coast Guard. She was introduced to service at a very young age growing up as a military kid. Her dad is still active-duty Navy, and her mom runs a nonprofit for military kids, Kids Rank, that is based on giving back to our communities. Nya have seen the impacts of giving back and lived that experience her entire life.

As of August 2021, Nya graduated boot camp and is now an active member of the Coast Guard. She was introduced to this amazing opportunity through CSPI (the College Pre Commissioning Initiative) and is now able to continue school as a fulltime student on a full scholarship while being paid as a Seaman working through her local recruiting office. Being surrounded by service, has always been one of Nya’s passions. She will be able to finish her education graduating debt free, continue to serve after graduation and become an officer for the Coast Guard.  Nya shares it has been such an amazing experience thus far, and she is looking forward to seeing where it takes her.


STEM is the Future for Texas Students

STEM is the Future for Texas Students

December 2, 2021

In celebration of Computer Science Week (December 6-12), Michelle Sedberry, Texas Education Agency STEM Coordinator, joins us to discuss the STEM vision in Texas to include the Texas EcosySTEM program and STEM toolkit.

Show Notes:

National Ecosystem:

Texas EcosySTEM:

Texas STEM Toolkit:





Michelle Sedberry is the STEM Coordinator at the Texas Education Agency. Michelle has a Graduate Certificate in Multidisciplinary Science focused on bilingual math and science and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. She has been in education for over 20 years as a classroom science teacher, district administrator, regional science specialist, and adjunct science professor at Texas Tech University. She is the published author of Creating Future Engineers through Elementary Engineering Professional Development and has published four science curriculum guides for Hank the Cowdog Ranch life Series which won the Tammie Silver Award in 2018.


We Have More Love to Give

We Have More Love to Give

November 24, 2021

Description: Listen as one military family shares their journey with fostering and adoption. 

Show notes: 

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

This podcast was made possible thanks to the generous support from the

Scott Spouses’ Club 


Bio: Jessica Chung 

Jessica Chung, A veteran, a military spouse, and a mother of four. Jessica is an advocate for foster care and the foster to adopt process. She also helps support those with children who have special needs.  Jessica has dedicated her life to service. Starting as a teenager volunteering a retirement home. At age 18 Jessica join the United States Army.

 She married her husband of almost 13 years, Timothy Chung, in 2009. The two of them have two biological children, one adopted child, and one foster child. When she is not taking children to extracurricular activities and doctor's appointments you can find Jessica volunteering in her current community. Jessica has served on many military installations as a FRG leader, AFTB instructor, master resiliency trainer, and spouses club president. She has also served as foster parent support group leader and has taken pride in helping other military foster families go through the ICBC process. Jessica’s whole goal in life is to make sure she makes a difference in every community that she touches period. Leave the world a better place than you found it. 

In Honor of Native American Heritage Month:  “Intentional Connections with Family and Tribal Members”

In Honor of Native American Heritage Month: “Intentional Connections with Family and Tribal Members”

November 18, 2021

Kansas Representative Sharice Davids, former Military Child and member Ho-Chunk Nation, shares how maintaining connections to her tribal members and military community shaped her views of the world.


Show Notes:


This podcast was made possible thanks to the generous funding from the

Ft Hood Spouses Club.



Bio: Sharice Davids

 Representative Davids was raised by a single mother, who served in the Army for 20 years. After graduating from Leavenworth High School, she worked her way through Johnson County Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City before earning a law degree from Cornell Law School. As a first generation college student who worked the entire time she was in college, Rep. Davids understands the importance of quality public schools and affordable higher education. It is that foundation that allowed her to go on to a successful career, focused on economic and community development, which included time as a White House Fellow under President Barack Obama.


When she was sworn into the 116th Congress, Rep. Davids became one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. Rep. Davids has centered her work in office on putting Kansans first, fighting to limit the influence of special interests and make health care more affordable and accessible to everyone. She is a resident of Roeland Park.


Guest Host: Anna Startzell

Anna Startzell is an Army spouse and mom to four military-connected children. She is the Grant Writer for the Fund Development team at the Military Child Education Coalition. Prior to joining MCEC, she worked with veterans and military spouses to help them seek civilian employment. She has also held several roles in higher education and nonprofits, including the West Point Association of Graduates, Old Dominion University, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, she served as an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team member and leader. Born and raised in Oklahoma, she is a proud citizen of the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations. Anna holds a BA from Vassar College in History and an MPA from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.


We are all connected to our military community and see the importance of supporting military students to find success academically.

We are all connected to our military community and see the importance of supporting military students to find success academically.

November 11, 2021

Description: Oklahoma is helping military students successfully transition through Purple Star Initiative. Oklahoma’s Senator John Montgomery and Representative Daniel Pae chat with Andi Janoe, Director of Implementation at MCEC, about Bill SB 54 and its impact on military families.

This podcast was brought to you by the generous support of the Offutt Officers’ Spouses’ Club.


Show Notes:


Bio: Daniel Pae


Daniel Pae currently serves as the state representative for House District 62. Before he was elected to the state legislature, Daniel worked as an Administrative Assistant in the Lawton City Manager’s Office. Born and raised in Lawton, Daniel is a proud graduate of Lawton High School’s Class of 2013. During his time at LHS, Daniel served in Student Council, Media Productions, and National Honor Society. He was the state champion for the Lions Club Speech Contest and the recipient of the Hugh Bish Award, which is given to the top student in each graduating class. Daniel graduated from the University of Oklahoma with two majors in economics and political science, two minors in history and international area studies, and a master’s degree in public administration. Daniel served as OU’s Student Body President, along with volunteering his time with The Oklahoma Group, Loveworks Afterschool Leadership, and Generation Citizen. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average. Daniel received numerous scholarships, honors, and awards during his college career, including the Carl Albert Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Carl Albert Capitol Scholars, and Henderson Scholarship. He was named to PE-ET Top Ten Senior Honor Society, OU Homecoming Royalty, and as a Big Man on Campus. Daniel also received the President’s Award for Outstanding Sophomores, the Regents’ Award for Outstanding Juniors, and the Outstanding Senior Man Award. He was named the recipient of the 2017 Carl Albert Award, which is the most prestigious award given to a student by the OU College of Arts and Sciences based on academics, moral force of character, and promise of future service to the state and nation. In his hometown, Daniel serves on the Young Professionals of Lawton Board of Directors, Leadership Lawton Fort Sill Board of Directors, and Marie Detty Youth & Family Services Board of Trustees. Additionally, he serves on the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma Board and The Oklahoma Academy Advisory Council. He is a graduate of Leadership Lawton Fort Sill Class 28, the 2019 Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills, the inaugural City of Lawton’s Citizens Academy, and Leadership Oklahoma Class 33. Whenever he has free time, he enjoys going on unexpected adventures with family and friends, working out at the gym, and reading books from the Lawton Public Library. Daniel regularly goes to the movie theater, especially if there is a new Disney-Pixar film that is released


Bio: John Montgomery


“John Michael Montgomery was born and raised in Lawton and graduated from Eisenhower High School. He began college at Cameron University before transferring to the University of Oklahoma and completed a B.A. in International Studies. Montgomery finished work at OU for his M.A. in Global Affairs in summer 2019. Montgomery works in the financial services industry and founded his own investment advisory firm, Invictus Investment Advisors in 2019.

Prior to election to the Senate in 2018, Montgomery served four years in the House beginning in 2014. Montgomery currently serves in the Senate as Vice Chair for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation.

Montgomery continues to live in Lawton with his wife, Kylee, their daughter, and two dogs. Kylee teaches in Lawton Public Schools.”


Bio Andi Janoe

Andi Janoe is currently serving as the MCEC Director of Implementation to deliver services and resources to students, parents, and school professionals who serve military-connected children. As an active duty military spouse and parent to two military children, the information she has learned personally while working for MCEC for the past four years has been invaluable. Additionally, as an educator and school counselor with over ten years of experience in five different school systems, she is passionate about providing support to fellow educators. She is committed to leading the way forward so that when a parent or educator thinks about academic and social-emotional transitions for military children, they think of the Military Child Education Coalition as their go-to organization for resources, education, and support.

Stable Educational Opportunities for Military Families

Stable Educational Opportunities for Military Families

November 4, 2021

We chat with Lisa Molinari, Vice President of Operations at Orion Military Scholarship, about the opportunity for military kids to experience a stable high school experience through boarding school. Then we will have Riley, an Orion Scholar, share why he decided to try boarding school and how being a military kid has made this transition easier.

Show Notes:



Lisa Molinari - VICE PRESIDENT, Operations

Lisa is a licensed attorney and military family columnist for Stars and Stripes, the newspaper for the US Armed Forces at home and abroad. As Navy spouse to Francis for 24 years, and as a mother of three, Lisa understands the impact of frequent PCS moves on military children, and the challenges of finding good educational opportunities.



  • Attends St. George’s School (Newport, RI) beginning Fall 2021
  • Active-duty Army family
  • Currently stationed in Cuba
  • Moved seven times, attended eight schools
  • Science enthusiast, interested in Microbiology
  • Interests include distance running, skiing, guitar, surfing, sailing, mountain biking, stock market

This podcast was made possible thanks to the generous support from the Mildenhall Spouses' Association and Military Spouses' Association 29 Palms.

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