By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffApril 2, 2009
Elementary school children have a brand new home on post - and it's a blast of a place to hang out.
There's a Techno Room where kids can play videogames and ride a simulated skateboard and a Drama Room where kids can practice ballet at the bar or build their own set. There's a high-energy gym, homework and computer labs, an art room and a welcoming atrium for plenty of downtime with friends.
On a recent afternoon at the new School Age Services Center, staff member Laquita Payne played Battleship with 9-year-old Chelsy Robinson and 7-year-old Matthew Snyder in the atrium while a bunch of rowdy kids played with balls in the gym and John Butler and Jaylan Johnson, both fifth-graders at Williams Elementary School, worked on their homework in the Homework Lab. Every few minutes, a parent checked in at the main desk to pick up their children.
"This is really nice. I was so surprised," said mom Lashonda Washington, who works at AMRDEC and who stopped in to pick up her two sons, Juwan and Jamal.
The kid-friendly, multi-purpose, 20,674-square-foot facility off Vincent Road and near the Youth Center and Child Development Center will be dedicated this Friday at 11 a.m. It will be named the Myra Garriott School Age Services Center in remembrance of the Child and Youth Services coordinator who spearheaded the project before her death in 2006 from cancer. Parents, children and the entire Redstone Arsenal community are invited to the dedication and grand opening.
"This building has been almost 20 months in construction," said Derrick Gould, director of Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation. "It's long overdue. But we are really excited to have it open for children and to be able to show it off to the Redstone Arsenal community this Friday."
The facility's opening completes a goal by FMWR to provide services for children from birth to high school graduation at one campus. The campus concept makes it more convenient for parents who have children in more than one FMWR child care program.
"Before this building, we had converted a NCO club and used it for years as the School Age Services Center," Gould said. "This building is a building actually designed for this program. It follows standard Army design for a School Age Services building.
"One of the reasons we have the building located here is we wanted to have all our youth programs in one complex. This way, children can easily graduate from one and go on to the other without leaving this complex. It's more convenient for parents and it allows the three centers to share resources."
Andre Terry, chief of Child and Youth Services, has overseen the project, which was built by Petticoat Construction of Cropwell under the supervision of the Mobile District Corps of Engineers. The facility can accommodate up to 195 children, has a large commercial kitchen and a check-in area, and plenty of space for pool tables, game areas, study areas, lockers and creative activities.
During the school year, children can be dropped off as early as 5 a.m. to wait for their school bus. They then return to the center after school, with parents picking them up by 5:30 p.m. During the summer months and holidays, the center is open all day for children to enjoy.
During the after school hours, children rotate among the different areas of the center every 45 minutes. They are given a snack, encouraged to complete their homework and then are allowed to participate in two activities until pickup time.
Gould said the facility's dedication will be particularly touching to those who remember Myra Garriott's dedication to the Child and Youth Services program.
"This building wouldn't have happened without her," he said. "This was Myra's brainchild. This was one of the things she promised to do while she was here. Sadly, she passed away before seeing the completion of this project."
During the dedication ceremony, a bronze plaque with Myra Garriott's name on it will be unveiled outside the facility.