After nine months of growing close, laughing, loving, playing, studying, enriching and helping mold, the Child, Youth and School Services pre-kindergarten (pre-K) classroom staff handed back the 19 children entrusted to their care back to their parents in a graduation ceremony May 26 at the Fort McPherson Post Theater.

“We give them back pounds heavier, inches taller, months wiser, more responsible and more mature than they were then. Although they would have attained this in spite of us, it has been our happy privilege to watch their personality unfold day by day and marvel at each new achievement, each new success and each new expansion of self. We give them back reluctantly,” said René Joe, pre-K teacher. “Take care of them for they are precious and one of a kind.”

Before handing them back, the pre-K staff let the children show some of their achievements and expansions. The children counted to ten in German, Spanish and sign language. They also sang songs to show they knew their ABCs, days of the week, months of the year and basic rules of phonics.

Joe, who took over teaching duties in January for Victoria Barrera, said although she was only teaching for half the year, in that short time she saw a lot of growth. “They’re a very bright group. Quite a few are already reading,” she said. “They’re ready for kindergarten both emotionally and socially.”

That preparation came from the way education was taught in the classroom. Much of the education was derived from engaging group work, which facilitated learning by being hands-on, which also helped develop the fine motor skills of the children, and taught the children the importance of positive interaction and cooperation with other children, Joe said. Joe also credited her staff, which helped take many of the children from kids who had never been away from home into social developed children ready to head out into school.

Patrick Gould, director, U.S. Army Garrison Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, also had praise for the staff. “So many people made me who I am today,” he said, reiterating the saying it takes a village to raise a child. “They are not just your children, but our children. They are our future.”

Harriet Holley, Child Development Center (CDC) program director agreed, calling the children “the strength of our future.” Parents seemed pleased with the way their children’s time in pre-K helped set the foundation for a good future. “He has a lot better concentration, (and) an eagerness to learn,” said Maj. Chris Baker, G-4 operations officer, Third Army/U.S. Army Central (Third Army), of his son, Nathan, 5. “He’s got a good jump.”

That jump was also due in part to some of Nathan’s classmates. Baker said he was with many of his classmates previously in the CDC, and that the group has always been a bright group.

Additionally, Baker said Nathan further developed his character and sense of humor in the classroom. Baker’s wife, Sarah, also had praise for Nathan’s progress and growth. Spc. Abraham Quinal, a cook with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Third Army, likewise said he change in his daughter, Ruth, 5. “Socially she’s more confident, respectful,” he said.

Academically, he said she has learned a lot, including her ABCs, numbers and language skills. “It (what she learned) is going to be a good foundation.” Though the foundation has been built and the children will no longer be entrusted to their care, Joe said she and her staff will never forget the children and will always wish them the best in whatever they build themselves up to be. “Together in the narrow confines of a crowded classroom, we have grown close, have become part of each other and shall always retain a little part of each other,” Joe said. “Remember that we shall always be interested in your children and their destiny, wherever they go, whoever they become.”

It was just one of many sentiments expressed at the day’s event. But out of all the words spoken, the children themselves summed everything up the best in one of their songs. “So long pre-K, it’s been fun. Kindergarten here we come.”