White Sands Missile Ranges’ Middle School and Teen population now has a designated place to relax, unwind and have fun after school. Youth Services officially opened up for youth grades 6th-12th on Feb. 3.
The new state of the art facility offers several different options for youth to include a demonstration kitchen, an art room, a gymnasium, a technology room, fitness room, homework room, a music room and a teen room.
“This program has the ability to touch their lives in huge ways,” said Child, Youth and School Services Coordinator Shawn Ticho.
WSMR Middle School and Teen Director Natalie Garley said the facility will now be able to highlight several gym activities and be available year-round. The new gym will also allow for youth to participate in sports such as volleyball, a program CYS Services was unable to offer until now due to limited gym space. Another new and exciting program that has already begun and is ongoing is ‘MST Gladiators’, which involves the youth facing off against the Youth Center staff with physical and mental activities.
Ticho said another perk to having a dedicated facility for WSMR’s youth with the appropriate amount of rooms and tools is that students will now be able to work on long-term projects. Prior to the Youth Center, when MST would offer art programs, the sessions would only allow for projects that could be completed within a couple of hours. The new art room gives students the dedicated space they needed to work on even more complex projects.
Since they’ve opened, Garley said, the most popular room in the facility is the music room where students can create and record their own music. Ticho said that in the future they would like to invite a professional musician who can teach music classes to any students that are interested. The facility also houses a dedicated Teen Room that teenagers designed themselves. In addition, the entire facility is Wi-Fi accessible and decorated to make the youth feel like they are in a trendy cafe.
“It definitely gives youth a place to go, which is outside of school where they can have fun and feel at home; it’s also a place of relief for youth,” Garley said.
“This building becomes a second home for many youth,” Ticho added.
Aside from being a fun getaway for youth at WSMR, Ticho said, the facility will also help them prepare for the future. With programs like HIRED, students can take part in an apprenticeship that will allow them to be in a professional work setting for 15 hours a week. Ticho said that several staff members that now work with him have grown up with WSMR programs like these.
“A lot of our staff have a degree in Education, however, here it’s more of a mentor type teaching; learning on a personal level and teaching life skills,” Ticho said.
WSMR Youth Center Assistant Director, Mike Cox, who arrived from Fort Campbell, KY, said he hopes to also be a mentor to the students and implement some of the teachings he took with him from Fort Campbell. One of the programs Cox hopes to implement is a money management program that will teach youth how to save for big purchases, like a car.
Some upcoming events for the new center will be a field trip to JumpLand in El Paso on Feb. 14 and Lock-Ins. One of the Lock-Ins, Operation Megaphone, is a lock-in that occurs throughout each installation worldwide on April 25. Garley said they will also be inviting youth from Holloman to participate in the lock-in. Last year, the lock-in consisted of playing kickball with the Garrison Commander at almost midnight and Skyping with other installations, such as Germany.
The facility is free for all youth grades 6th-12th who qualify for Child, Youth and School Services. An official grand opening will take place within the first two weeks of March. Ticho said since the celebration is geared towards the Middle School and Teen community, the grand opening will host the Oñate High School Color Guard and the White Sands School Band.
Hours of operation are: Mon-Thurs- 3-8 p.m., Fri-Sat 3-10 p.m. Open two Sundays a month.
For more information please call 678-7859.