KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – Finding care and activities for middle- and high-school students after school can be an uphill battle for parents, but U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz’s two youth centers (at Landstuhl and Baumholder) help bridge that gap.
“The primary mission of Child and Youth Services (CYS) Youth Center is to reduce the conflict between mission requirements and parental responsibilities,” said Ryan Flynn, Baumholder Youth Center youth programs director. “In short, CYS supports the warfighter by providing safe and positive programs and environments, where their children are supervised and cared for by trained and supportive adult staff members while they focus on the Army mission.”
The youth center is a CYS program run by the garrison’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The program is free for middle- and high-school students, grades 6 to 12, to be involved in a wide range of programs. The youth have access to various activity rooms, can participate in planned events like field trips, and have opportunities for growth and development. The centers also offer periodical special events on Friday nights and Saturdays.
Each youth center consists of multiple rooms for different activities and outdoor space for sports. They have a room to do homework, technology rooms with computers and tablets, an entertainment center to play video games and common areas with pool tables. Each center also provides ‘grab-and-go’ snacks from the kitchen, but under normal circumstances the teens can bake or cook. Each location differs in what’s offered.
Youth center staff also work with organizations in the United States that give the students safe driving courses, national art competitions, scholarships and other clubs that children would normally have stateside, like Keystone Club and Torch Club. Some of the organizations even offer school scholarships.
The relationship with organizations in the United States also gives the youth centers a chance to receive grants. Organizations awarded Baumholder Youth Center multiple grants this year: $5,000 from the Boys and Girls Club of America and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) for the use of the UPS Road Code, a safe driving program; $1,400 from BGCA and Major League Baseball to run the MLB ‘Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities’ for children between the ages of 6 to 8; and $10,000 from BGCA for its arts programs.
“These funds have allowed us to reinvest directly into our youth program at the Baumholder Teen Center,” said Flynn. He and the staff were able to buy iMac computers for the technology and art areas, 3-D printers, STEAM & craft kits, gift cards and many other supplies. “This ensures our program spaces are modern, well-stocked, and have a variety of activities for youth members.”
During the summer, each youth center offers a full schedule of programs. This summer, Landstuhl Youth Center’s summer program had a week dedicated to learning about animal care. During this week, children worked with K9’s for Veterans Abroad. They learned about therapy dogs, and were able to see a demonstration of the handler’s work.
This interaction led the teens to create a relationship with the organization and to start a service project during Community Service Week. Children from the youth center were also able to collect items like dog food, toys, blankets and treats and donate them to K9’s for Veterans Abroad.
Lindsey Cole, CYS assistant director, said service projects are vital for the center’s students. “Community service projects that contribute locally or far away give the youth the opportunity to explore and develop their own capacity for leadership, and often inspire new plans for the future. It also gives the youth practice socializing with adults, a beneficial skill for them to have for their years in school and eventually, adulthood.”
Both youth centers have changed operations since the start of the pandemic to keep everyone safe. Safety measures in place include:
• Limiting capacity to 45 students.
• Students must pre-register before attending.
• Temperatures are taken and hand sanitized at check-in
• All equipment is only used once and is disinfected before reuse.
• Mask wear is required
• Professional cleaning services are done daily on top of the sanitizing being done by the staff.
Aidan, a high-school student who participates in the youth center said that he loves the youth center. “Being at the Teen Center is a great opportunity to meet new people and friends. I also have plenty of time to complete my homework from school too.”
While Allison, a middle-school student said, “it is important because you can make new friends.”
“Giving youth a place to go outside of school and home where they can be themselves and participate in exciting activities that they’re interested in has great value, especially at this age,” said Cole. “Parents in the community can rest easy and focus on their jobs and the mission when their youth are at the Youth Center, knowing their kids are safe and having fun.”
To enroll a child in the Youth Center, call Parent Central Services:
Baumholder: 0611-143-531-3440 / DSN: (314) 531-3440
Kaiserslautern: 0611-143-541-9065 / DSN: (314) 541-9065