MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
It’s 3:30 p.m., school is out and the Maxwell Youth Center is bustling with children. About an hour later, parents dressed in military uniforms begin arriving and play time is over for the day.
The Maxwell Youth Centers and school age programs provide a fun, but safe environment for military kids while their parents are at work.
The military lifestyle is a unique one that comes with many sacrifices, sacrifices that not only affect the service member, but their families.
“[The Maxwell Youth Programs] really provide that sense of community that you need in the military culture,” said, Robert Richert, Maxwell Child and Youth Programs director of staff.
There are two programs available at Maxwell and Gunter Annex: The Youth Center and the School Age Center.
The Youth Programs are open to youth ages five through 18 and the School Age Centers cater specifically to youth from the ages five through 12.
These programs are consistent across the DoD, making a permanent change of station a little easier for the kids involved. The primary and most important duties of the Child and Youth Programs assistants are to keep the children safe and to make sure they’re having fun.
To ensure the children get the most out of their time at the Youth Center or the School Age Center, Ashely Whitaker, CYP assistant, and her coworkers, use the time they have while the kids are at school to come up with fun activities.
When formulating activities, there are five different categories they have to keep in mind: Arts, Health and Life Skills, Character and Leadership, Health and Fitness and Pow Wow, a homework and study option.
The staff provide games and activities to fill at least three of those categories a day.
Tamela Mitchell, CYP youth counselor, said “We are not babysitters, we are teaching the children and we are enhancing what the schools are teaching them."
Lindsey Davis, CYP assistant and Pamela Jones, CYP counselor, both have college-level knowledge with working with children. Davis has a teaching degree, specializing in young children and Jones is currently studying Psychology toward a degree in Early Childhood.
Davis said she enjoys being a support system for military kids, because of all the hardships they have to go through, as well as being able to be a teacher and another positive adult figure in their lives.
The Maxwell Youth Centers and School Age Centers serve more than 100 children a day and about 800 children a year.
Keeping and entertaining that many kids can become overwhelming, but Whitaker said kids are her passion and seeing them happy and having fun is enough reward for the hard work.
Nonetheless, with reward comes challenge and Whitaker said that the most challenging part of her job is watching the kids come and go and having to say good bye, but she finds comfort in knowing they will have the Child and Youth programs waiting for them at their new base.