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Trevor Romain speaks with a student at Fort Belvoir Elementary School. (Photo: Hee Suk Ko / USO)
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Romain Continues to Lift the Spirits of Military Children

Thursday, October 13, 2011

By Christian Pelusi 

Longtime USO entertainer Trevor Romain and his “With You All the Way” tour entertained and educated students from Fort Belvoir Elementary School in Virginia on Wednesday.

Mixing his funny in-person presentation and screen-projected animation, Trevor connects with military children in a way that leaves audience members of all ages entertained. His animated tales reinforce to children ideals like respecting one another, working hard in school and finding proper ways to express their emotions, especially as they deal with situations like relocation or the deployment of a parent.

By his estimation, Trevor has spoken to over one million children in his life. Having touched that many lives, it is interesting to hear how those children have, in turn, educated Trevor and helped him craft his material.

“They really taught me that with the right tools, they can be really resilient,” he said. “And also [they taught him] to really just ‘be real.’ They know when you are conning them. They know when you’re being preachy. For me, it’s sharing my own personal stories; being real about it opens them up to receive the information we’re giving. So there’s an authenticity that I think they’ve taught me to adhere to.”

After five years of working with the USO and visiting approximately 21 bases and installations on seven USO tours, Trevor continues to polish his technique and presentation, but the bedrocks remain the same.

“At the end of the day, I feel if I am just real, and I tell just a real story, that they’re open to it. I think also, mixing humor, because if you start going too much on the one side, you lose them and one of the reasons that I’m in the animations … is that animation is not real. When an anvil falls on an animal, the animal gets up and runs away. To bring it back to reality, I’m in the show so it’s like ‘This is actually real stuff,’ using those characters. It’s very fine-tuned, although it might not seem so, I do a balance of using humor exactly at the right moment, then, when those endorphins are released, I come in with something that might be quite poignant.

“We’ve sometimes seen kids just cry, which is wonderful because we’re asking them to feel, we’re telling them to express their feelings. Sometimes you’ll find that teachers get all uptight, but we’re asking them to express [themselves], rather than keeping those feelings in.”

As for the difference between fifth and sixth graders and second and third graders, what a difference a few years makes.

“You think these guys aren’t listening?” Trevor said of the older kids. “They hear every single nuance and say ‘Hey, you wore that same shirt before’ or ‘How come in that animation this happened or that happened?’ … They’re very aware of what’s going on.

“In the second through third, they’re a little easier in terms of reaching with simple storytelling. When kids get older, they have that sort of ‘I know everything’ kind of thing, so when I tell a story [to the younger kids], I bring my energy down and it’s interesting how the whole room leans forward. That technique really works. It’s quite amazing.”

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Photo caption: Trevor Romain speaks with a student at Fort Belvoir Elementary School. (Photo: Hee Suk Ko / USO) 

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