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Annelise Figueroa, who is enrolled in Cooper Child Development Center, takes scissors from Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, to help Fort Sill officials cut the ribbon and open the new 232-space center for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, Nov. 18.

FORT SILL, Okla. -- Many of the children enrolled in the newest child development center on post participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony which officially opened the Cooper CDC for business Nov. 18.

Cooper, the third CDC on post, provides 232 spaces for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. With the opening of Cooper CDC, there are now 588 child care spaces available in a centralized location, which meets the demands of the Base Realignment and Closure and helps to keep the promise of the Army Family Covenant.

Robin Garrett, Cooper CDC director, said the opening was a very exciting day for her. "As you know, the opening of a new child care center is always a cause for celebration and a time of optimism and hope, but for me it is especially exciting because we are able to provide quality child care for many families that have been on the waiting list for a long time."

According to Garrett, the new center, which is already 87 percent full, provides full-day pre-kindergarten and a before- and after-school programs for pre-K children -- thanks to a partnership with Lawton Public Schools.

"This is our premier child development center right now," said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "All three of our child development centers offer developmental services -- not custodial care. Each room has a lesson plan for the children, beginning with infants and goes through the developmental process to make sure they are ready for pre-K and then, of course, elementary school. We have more than 70 children in the pre-K program, and we also offer wrap around care. So it's a benefit to our Soldiers, families and the children."

According to Spencer-Ragland, some of the ways children receive developmental care include learning sign language and how to recognize colors and numbers at a very early age. "They have reading time and play time and everything a child needs to have a successful academic life," she said.

Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, said the opening of the Cooper CDC reinforces the Army's commitment to Soldiers and their families through the Army Family Covenant. "This opening is a physical demonstration of the Army's promise for quality of life facilities and programs through the covenant. This is another of the many quality-of-life programs and services the Army offers to Soldiers and their families in return for the sacrifices of our Soldiers."

Shaina and Kevin Cherilus have two children, a 3.5-year-old son and a 10-week-old daughter enrolled at Cooper CDC.

"I really think it's a beautiful center," said Shaina. "The teachers are really excited and energetic and my children love it and seem to be adjusting well. I think it's nice to have a third center open on post because it allows many more children to experience the different things they have available in the centers. There's a lot more opportunity for the children to interact with a lot of different people."

My son is at an age where I can come home and ask him questions and talk to him, said Kevin. "What I've found is that it's very diverse with people from different places and cultures so he gets that cultural experience, which we like. The center is very colorful with lots of things to do and my son is very active so this is the place where he has lots of things to do and he is always engaged."

Kevin is very active in the community and volunteers as a coach for sports teams. "Currently I coach my son's soccer team. It's nice that many of the children here in the center are also on his team so he is in class with them and on the sports field."

"The staff has been very helpful to me especially with the anxiety of separation from my daughter. I stayed home with my son for three years but, with my daughter, I put her in at six weeks," said Shaina. "We discuss things and I feel comfortable with leaving her here. The small classrooms also help because I know my children are receiving quality one-on-one care from qualified professionals."

Page last updated Fri November 26th, 2010 at 12:54