SEMBACH KASERNE, Germany - U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz officially opened a new school age center here with a ribbon cutting, Feb. 13.

The new Sembach School Age Center replaces the former facility, which was located within Sembach Elementary School. The project began several years ago, with garrison Child and Youth Services professionals determined to find a space to best fit the needs and interests of school-aged children in the Sembach community.

Sembach SAC Director Jennifer Hodges said being in the new facility feels like moving from a two-bedroom apartment into a 6,000-square-foot house.

"We're very appreciative that we were able to partner with the school for so many years to have a program there. We only had two rooms, so we did our best to accommodate everybody's needs and interests. Now, we have this huge, sprawling, state-of-the-art facility with multiple activity areas, and children are able to flow and choose what spaces and activities to participate in based on their personal interests," she said.

The new SAC provides a variety of rooms for students to expand their knowledge and creativity. The Tech Zone offers Wi-Fi, desktop computers, newly acquired tablets and a homework technician ready to assist students with schoolwork and educational activities. The Rising Stars room is designed to facilitate the performing arts program and includes musical instruments, a dress-up wardrobe, a play kitchen and more.
In the Messy Mania room, students participate in arts and crafts and science projects. Finally, the Fit Zone gets kids moving with organized games, and the atrium provides a snack area, tabletop games and social recreation.

Hodges, who also oversees the Landstuhl SAC, said the school age centers are designed to provide a continuation of learning from school into after-care programs.

"We facilitate that continuation of learning by having close partnerships with our local schools and focus on programming that supports the ideology of fun with a purpose. This approach to programming allows youth to continue to develop vital life skills that will make them successful and responsible citizens later in life."

The facility soft-opened in January, and Hodges said it has been well-received by the youth participants and parents alike.

"It was so great to see the joy on the children's faces the very first day they came into the center. They wanted to try everything, go in every room and engage with all the new materials and supplies. There was so much joy with the children and so much excitement with the families - they've deserved this center for so long," she said. Opening the SAC has allowed CYS to support more families with 15 additional spaces in the larger facility.

The school age center underwent an accreditation site visit in January to ensure the programming environment and program itself were up to standards. Hodges said they were excited to receive news that not only was the facility up to standard, but the Council on Accreditation expedited the accreditation, meaning there were zero deficiencies or findings in either the Landstuhl or Sembach School Age Care programs.

Ellen Leten, Sembach SAC assistant director, echoed Hodges' excitement regarding the accreditation. Leten, who has helped lead efforts on the new Sembach SAC project from the beginning stages, praised the support of the center staff in the weeks leading up to and during the accreditation process. Staff worked harder and longer hours to ensure the program would open on time and within operating standards, she said.

"From seeing the facility being built all the way to it actually being open has been such a joy. The hard work has paid off knowing we are supporting our military families and their children. It's all worth it to see the smiles on their faces," Leten said.

Continued improvements to family and youth programs throughout the Rheinland-Pfalz area remain a priority for USAG RP leadership. Deputy Garrison Commander Dr. Kevin Griess said children are the core of our community..

"It is with great pleasure that we invest time, effort and money into our facilities and programs to support the children," said Dr. Griess. "This new school age center is a tribute to the staff and community who operate and use it. Congratulations to all!"

For information about CYS programs or to register your youth, call Parent Central Services at DSN 541-9066 or Comm. 0611-143-541-9066, or stop by Bldg. 162 on Rhine Ordnance Barracks.