The White Sands Missile Range Child and Youth Services program has made it a priority to put families first by consistently offering quality and affordable child care, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Child and Youth Services Coordinator Dolores Lopez said that although they lost many of their customers during the pandemic as parents started teleworking from home, they are gearing up to welcome those families back.
“We are in the process of hiring additional staff as our numbers are returning back to normal post COVID, in order to accommodate all the families that are requesting services,” Lopez said.
During the pandemic the School Age and Middle School and Teen programs supported the families that were still coming on post by offering virtual learning services at the facilities, allowing those parents to continue working on site.
Students were able to come on base and use the internet and computers to do their school work. Lopez said that in the beginning it was a challenge because staff members were not trained as teachers, but after the first few weeks staff members became very proficient in helping students navigate the platforms that were being used by the Las Cruces Public Schools.
“That is something that we will continue to do as long as the need is there,” Lopez said about virtual learning services, in order to ensure they can continue assisting students in the event that schools shut down again. She said they also want to continue supporting the home school families that want to use the facilities during the day.
Lopez said parents can be assured that their programs offer excellent care and services.
“Both our Child Development Center and our School Age Services programs are nationally accredited,” Lopez said. “The CDC is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and SAS is accredited by the Council of Accreditation. All of our programs are also DoD certified.”
Just recently the Child and Youth Services Army Higher Headquarters Inspection was conducted virtually May 24-27.
“Our team did an amazing job preparing for the inspection and ensuring that our facilities are providing top notch care to the children in our community,” said WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Ryan M. Howell.
With schools out for the summer Lopez said that right now they are in their summer programming stage and they are working on getting summer camps filled.
“We want our kids to have an eventful summer after a difficult year quarantining at home and doing virtual learning,” Lopez said.
Parents are now being recalled from telework status and Lopez said that in the past, before the pandemic, where their numbers typically dropped in the summer, those numbers are going up because parents are ready to come back to the office to work.
Right now SAS is offering anywhere from 2 to 3 camps a week and instead of the individual children choosing one of those camps they will spend time in each of the camps every day, which is different from what they have typically done in the past.
The MST program will have one camp a week and then free time in the afternoons to do other scheduled activities, such as swimming or bowling.
This year they are also offering a free STEM camp called Camp Innovation. This camp is being sponsored by the State of New Mexico June 28 thru July 2.
“It is a free coding and electronics camp, so this will be the first time we are offering this camp,” Lopez said. She said everything for the camp has been provided by the organization to include the computers the kids will be using and the coding boards.
“We are excited to have them here for a week to do this camp with our kids.”
The camp is open to youth that will be in 6th, 7th or 8th grade in the 2021/2022 school year.
Campers will learn how to build and control electronic circuits using Arduino, they will learn to write computer code to control sensors, LEDs, and servo motors, create a prototype solution to a problem they want to solve, market their prototype to the public and explore career opportunities in STEM fields here in New Mexico.
WSMR is working with the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. Currently all 50 States and the District of Columbia participate in the interstate compact that provides a uniform policy platform for resolving the challenges experienced by military children. It is estimated that the average military family moves three times more often than the average non-military family.
“We are hoping that getting involved with the program at the state level will bring more opportunities for White Sands,” Lopez said.
Both the School Age Care and Youth Center are participating in the United States Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program, which offers free breakfast and lunch to children and youth 18 years and under on the installation and will continue to offer it through August, until the new school year begins.
In addition, the free grab and go portion of the Summer Food Program for the community is being offered at the Youth Center. They will also be supporting the summer meals during Vacation Bible School at the Post Chapel and for the GEMS Summer Camps being offered on the installation.
For more information on the Summer Food Service Program, Summer Camps and other services call the Parent Central Office at (575) 678-2441, visit the website at www.whitesands.armymwr.com or log on to the CYS Facebook page at White Sands CYS where they post all their updated materials. Parents can also stop by in person. Parent Central Office is located in Building 465 Room 125 and they are open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.