For many military parents, finding a safe and fun environment for their school-age children is a priority. The military's youth and teen programs help fill the gap in a family's care needs during summer break, holidays, and before-and after-school hours. Programs vary by service branch and installation, but most installations have a program for school-age children, as well as a youth center with organized activities.
Installation programs for youth and teens
Active-duty service members, including activated Guard and Reserve members, and Department of Defense civilians can take advantage of programs for youth and teens. Children ages 12 years and older, while more independent, still need structure and age-appropriate activities. Youth and teen programs on the installation can help parents find activities, field trips and other events geared toward older children. Although the programs vary from one installation to another, many installations have youth centers, which offer classes, sponsored events and a safe place to hang out.
The installation's youth center is a great place for children and teens to relax, have fun, do homework and meet new people. Every youth center is different. Even if your children did not spend a lot of time at the center where you previously lived, encourage them to give your new installation's center a try. It may offer things your old youth center didn't. Regardless of your children's interests, they are bound to find something to do there. Here is a sampling of what your youth center may offer your school-age children:
- Computer labs. Your children can chat with friends online or use the computers for research, paper writing, games and more.
- Special field trips. Your children can participate in outings to the movies, bowling, etc.
- Gymnasiums. Your children can get some exercise in a safe environment by playing basketball or another gym sport with other children their age.
- Fitness rooms. Your children can get a workout and get rid of some stress in the fitness room.
- Music rooms. Your children can express themselves by dancing with friends or recording some music.
- Game rooms. Your children can learn to play pool or play a board game with their friends.
- Volunteer and employment opportunities. Your children can use the youth center to find that perfect job or volunteer position.
Other programs for military youth and teens
Although not generally located on a military installation, these organizations offer services - in the form of before- and after-school care, camps or special programs - to military youth and teenagers. They can be especially valuable to activated Guard and reserve families, or active-duty families who live far from standard installation services.
- 4-H Military Partnership. 4-H Military Partnerships bring the resources of the Land Grant Universities - youth development professionals, research based curricula, and high quality training and technical assistance - to the youth programs of the military. Through this partnership, military youth are able to participate in 4-H clubs in their community and have access to summer camps around the country. To find out more, visit the 4-H Military Partnership website.
- Mission Youth Outreach. Mission Youth Outreach is partnership between the services and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The program helps meet the needs of active-duty, Guard and reserve families who may not live near installation services. The program lets military youth take part in local Boys & Girls Club programs at no cost to the family. More information is available on the Boys & Girls Club website under "Mission Youth Outreach."