Student Skypes with Father Serving Overseas


For Malachi Keaton, a fifth-grader in Marie Finley’s class at John F. Kennedy Intermediate School, the face on the video screen was a truly special surprise. School was ending, and Keaton was preparing for summer and the move up to Robert Frost Middle School as a virtual visitor came to the class’s computer lab. It was Malachi’s father, Terrance, a specialist with the Army National Guard serving overseas.

In Kuwait, the elder Keaton is attached to part of an aviation support battalion. When at home, he is stationed in Ronkonkoma near Long Island MacArthur Airport, keeping UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flying safely and ready for civilian emergencies.  

Father and son had not seen each other in six months, when Terrance was last in the U.S. attending parent-teacher conferences at JFK, although they had been communicating via mail. Over the course of the school year, Finley’s class had been pen pals with Terrance Keaton and his troop, and sent them care packages.

During the soldier’s brief window of availability, a Skype videoconference session was arranged, facilitated by the district's instructional technology administrator, Andrew Choi, so that Terrance could speak to his son and address Malachi’s classmates personally. The students asked Keaton, who is going on his third year of service, about his duties and how it feels to serve his country, and he showed them a battle helicopter.

“The best part was when Mr. Keaton came onto the screen and Malachi yelled, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and slid off the chair,” said Finley. “There wasn't a dry eye in the house.”