Yelm impresses DoDEA members after hosting three-day conference


As the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA) Pacific Rim Regional Community of Practices event wound down, members of school districts from around the region gathered at Yelm Community Center to recap their three days in Yelm.

Recipients of DoDEA’s grant program, including school districts from Hawaii, Alaska, California, Washington and Idaho, shared with each other the highlights from the visit, notably the food, schools and the trip to the Tahoma Vista Alpaca Farm & Fiber Mill to pet alpacas.

Perhaps no one in attendance was more impressed with what Yelm had to offer than Jennifer Dailey-Perkins, DoDEA’s grant program manager, who traveled from Washington D.C. for the event. She described Yelm as a “gem.”

“It’s beautiful. It’s very picturesque. I think the schools are amazing, and Superintendent Chris Woods is doing an absolutely fantastic job,” she said. “You can really feel that Yelm has embraced their slogan of ‘You belong here.’ You feel the sense of belonging in every school that you visit. You can tell that it is embodied in the culture of the school system.”

Dailey-Perkins also enjoyed the food of Masonry Cafe, Red Lantern Asian Fusion and visiting the “Historic Yelm Canyon,” the nickname for the pothole on East Yelm Avenue.

“People should go and see if they can survive the Yelm Canyon. It’s mandated for any visitor to the area that you go and see that,” she said. “There should be T-shirts for you to buy that say, ‘I survived the Yelm Canyon.’ ”

Outside of Yelm’s cuisine and infamous landmark, Dailey-Perkins said she was most impressed with the students. She visited Mill Pond Elementary School, Ridgeline Middle School and Yelm High School during her visit, and she attended a student panel consisting of military-connected students.

“There’s such a sense of school spirit and pride everywhere you go. Everyone seems so supportive of each other,” Dailey-Perkins said of Yelm students.

Mariah Gibson, a student panelist and freshman at Yelm High School, said she enjoyed answering questions about her experience growing up in a military family.

“I really think it was cool to see adults carrying what we said and applying that to what they’re now doing for their job,” she said.

Sophomore Jackson Gray concurred, adding that it was important for DoDEA members to get a firsthand understanding of what it’s like to be a military student.

“It’s important to talk to more people and expand on what our experience is like. Maybe that can help people,” he said.