By Senior Airman Kaylee Clark
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Finding activities to occupy your child in between the end of the school day and the time you get home from work can be overwhelming. While one child might think video games will suffice to occupy their time, the Little Rock Air Force Base Youth Center offers hands-on and interactive activities and programs to keep youngsters busy.
The center offers two separate programs for base youth: The Before and After Care Program and the Open Recreation Program. The Before and After Program hours are from 6:30 – 7:20 a.m. and from 1 – 6 p.m. The open recreation program is from 3 – 6 p.m Monday through Friday and is for children ages 9 and up.
The center’s $35 membership fee covers an open recreation participant for a year. During this time, members have full access to video games, pool, foosball, basketball, arts and crafts and books.
The Teen Center is open Saturdays from 5 – 10 p.m. Teens may bring a guest along for 2 dollars per visit.
On Thursday nights, the Iron Skillet, which is affiliated with the 4-H Club, is an opportunity for children to learn about healthy eating and cooking.
The Torch Club, a Boys and Girls Club program, meets on every Tuesday. In this program, members learn the election process and how to work together to implement activities in four areas: service to club and community; education; health and fitness; and social recreation.
The youth center also offers volunteer opportunities. Last summer, kids volunteered to cook meals for a homeless shelter in Little Rock. They produced more than 450 meals, which trumped their goal of 150.
“I feel that opportunities like this teach the children that people need our help,” said Jackie Russell, the 19th Force Support Squadron Youth Center school age coordinator. “This opportunity teaches them responsibility.”
The Youth Center hosts guest visitors such as the American Red Cross. Future guest speakers include members from Arkansas Engineering for Kids who will teach the children about engineering video games.
“The difference in kids going home alone after school and coming here is that we can provide safety and supervision and higher-learning activities,” said Russell. “For instance, when they participate in an art class, it is more than just finger painting: We teach them about the history of an artist.”
The staff takes pride in looking after the next generation.
“I believe that when you are working with children you are working with the most precious resource, they are our future,” said James Ussery, the youth and teens program director.
To contact the Youth Center for additional information call 501-987-6355.