Seray Cezero, 11, guides her younger brother Sam, 9, as he rides Cocoa at the Equilibrium Horse Center in Gambrills. The two siblings from Potomac Place Neighborhood Center visit the center through the EDGE after-school program at Fort Meade.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Seray Cerezo, 11, and her 9-year-old brother Sam stood in a stall at the Equilibrium Horse Center in Gambrills brushing Cocoa, a brown and white horse they had been visiting every Monday in June.

"We like Cocoa," Seray said. "Horses are sweet."

The two siblings from Potomac Place and four other children from Fort Meade have been learning to care for and ride horses through the Experience, Develop, Grow and Excel, or EDGE program.

The Army created the EDGE program two years ago to provide children with more after-school activities, said Scott Marko, a partnership specialist with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Meade.

EDGE offers activities every weekday from 3 to 6 p.m.

The activities are open to children of active-duty service members, Reservists and National Guard, retired military, and DoD civilians and contractors.

Marko said that while the EDGE program is focused on grades six through 12, children in grades one through five can participate as well.

Activities for grades six through 12 are free. However, there is a $5 fee per activity for grades one through five.

The Child, Youth and School Services shuttle picks up participants from their respective centers for every activity.

Grades one through five are picked up from the School Age Center at 1900 Reece Road, while grades six through eight are picked up at the Youth Services Center at 909 Ernie Pyle St. High school students are picked up at the Fort Meade Teen Center at 3102 Clark Road.

After the activities, participants are dropped off at the centers where they were picked up.

Parents must first register their children with CYS2 and sign a permission slip that is valid as long as the child is involved in the program.

"It's a good deal," Marko said. "They're having fun and learning different things."

Typically, a maximum of 13 seats are available for each activity. Marko said many of the same youngsters participate in the program, but he hopes to see more new faces throughout the summer.

"A lot of these kids really started to enjoy it and keep signing up," he said.

One of the more popular activities is the cooking class at Potomac Place Neighborhood Center, which is led by a certified chef who works in the National Security Agency cafeteria.

"The cooking was huge," Marko said. "I had a lot of parents saying that their child had fun learning different dishes."

Each activity is directed toward a specific age group.

July activities include "Tackling the Teen" debates, remote-control boats at Burba Lake, drama class, a cooking course that teaches French, British, Spanish and Irish cuisine, crabbing at Sandy Point State Park, bowling at the Lanes and reading.

In August, the program will still feature the debates, drama classes, remote-control boats, crabbing and bowling, but will add a computer class, piano lessons, Zumba dance exercise and a baking course.

The Exceptional Family Member Program also offers an EDGE program with a different slate of activities. To enroll in an EFMP EDGE activity, the participant must be registered with CYS2 and EFMP. Activities are open to grades one through 12 and are created for specific age groups.

July activities for EFMP EDGE include Zumba classes, piano lessons, nutrition courses, martial arts and yoga. In August, EFMP EDGE will continue the martial arts and yoga classes, and add a creative cooking course.

The EDGE program requires Marko to design activities for the youths every month. When creating programs, Marko looks at the interests of the youngsters participating. If there is a request for an activity, Marko works to create it.

The program, he said, aims to create activities for every type of child.

"I gear an activity towards their likes once I ask a few questions," Marko said. "I can make an activity out of almost anything."

For more information, call 301-677-2146. To register, call 301-677-1156 or 1149, or visit Parent Central Services at 1900 Reece Road. To enroll online, visit https://webtrac.mwr.army.mil/webtrac/meadecyms.html.

For more information, visit the EDGE! website at http://www.ftmeademwr.com/cyss/edge.php.

Page last updated Thu July 7th, 2011 at 00:00