TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - The Tobyhanna Child Development Center is improving programs with the help of grant money received from a Pennsylvania program called Keystone STARS.

The CDC qualified for a Level 2 award in December, receiving $9,450 toward the purchase of new furniture, books, bicycles, helmets, and to help pay for a sports and fitness program.

Keystone STARS is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning to improve, support, and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. STARS stands for Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources and Support.

"After earning our state certification, we started hearing about different programs available to child development facilities," said Jennifer Williams, Child and Youth and School Services Program Manager. "Participating in Keystone STARS offers us the opportunity to qualify for grant money, plus give parents of CDC children the chance to participate in subsidy programs."

Keystone STARS performance standards are grouped into four levels: STAR 1, STAR 2, STAR 3 and STAR 4. Each level builds on the previous level and uses research-based best practices to promote quality early learning environments and positive child outcomes, according to the program Web site. Furthermore, the standards address staff qualifications, and professional development, the early learning program, partnerships with family and community, and leadership and management.

Officials here are already preparing for the Level 3 award and hope to complete Level 4 before the end of the year.

"There are a variety of things you can do with the grant money, as long as you specify how you plan to spend it," Williams said, noting that there's always a need to train staff members, equip classrooms and update programs. "This time we chose to look at our environment, and select areas for improvement."

For instance, the infant room needed a new rocking chair, according to Williams. To increase diversity in language and literacy, the center will order more magazines and books. And, to enhance play outside, the center will purchase bikes and helmets, she added.

"Part of the grant will provide funding to plan and implement a Start Smart program for our preschoolers," Williams said. "Right now we have a staff member working on basketball, going over different activities and skills regarding basketball and working with the younger kids."

Tobyhanna's CYSS Program offers programming for infants and youths through 12th grade. Active duty parents, Department of Defense employees, DoD contractors and military retirees are eligible to enroll their children in the CDC programs.

All programs strive to promote the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of children and youths by providing a safe and nurturing environment, according to CYSS officials.

Williams praised the CDC staff for their commitment, dedication and work ethic.

"They're pretty serious about what they do here," Williams said. "They work hard; are committed and dedicated. They put their all into providing the best things possible for the children."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.

Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.

About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.