Center’s ‘Family First’ event closes out summer

Children who participate in the programs at the Youth Center at NAS Whidbey sign each others shirts Thursday as an end-of-summer keepsake.  - Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times
Children who participate in the programs at the Youth Center at NAS Whidbey sign each others shirts Thursday as an end-of-summer keepsake.
— image credit: Janis Reid/Whidbey News-Times

This year it was pirates.

Children who participated in the programs at the Youth Center at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station this summer learned to speak in pirate “lingo,” studied the history of pirates and learned about ships.

“We can just kind of have fun,” said Youth Activities Director Cynthia Fletcher. “The kids learn to be artistic and creative.”

Previously entitled the Day for Kids, Thursday’s Family First Festival marked the center’s end-of-summer celebration where kids signed each others shirts as souvenirs and families were invited for dinner and playtime.

While many of the planned events, such as outdoor music and activities were rained out, the skies cleared in the afternoon and children were able to play on the outdoor equipment.

“Every year we go outside and people sign our shirts,” said eight-year-old Samara Hutton. “It tickles.”

During the summer, the center offers weekly “camps” where children of all ages can participate in learning and physical activities geared toward enriching their school experience and keeping their minds sharp.

During the school year, the center provides pre-K learning as well as after school study and enrichment programs. School begins for most of Oak Harbor’s students on Thursday, Sept. 5.

“The fact that their minds keep going, these kids will transition into school well,” Fletcher said.

Programs at the Youth Center, which is located off base within the Navy housing community off Regatta Drive, are open to anyone affiliated with the Navy base, including active duty families, Department of Defense employees and contractors.

Each summer and school-year session is given a different theme, such as this summer’s “pirate” theme, allowing the children different avenues for creativity and exploration.

“Because we are a military facility, it puts the parents’ minds at ease,” said Assistant Youth Director Fran Leukhardt.

“They don’t have to worry that their kids are not being taken care of.”

The center tries to “mirror what the schools are doing” Leukhardt said, ensuring that they are complementing each student’s school performance and setting him or her up for success.

In addition to summer field trips that include water slides, the zoo, high alpine towers, the pool and exploring local beaches, the center works closely with the Boys and Girls Club and 4H to provide a comprehensive learning experience.

A unique and well-received component of the Youth Center is the Children’s Garden Club, an educational project of the Island County Master Gardners and 4H since 1999.

Jane Adams, who was the coordinator from the beginning through last year, was honored at the Family First Festival for her years of service to the Youth Center.

“My favorite thing is the garden club because of Miss Jane,” said nine-year-old Mari Pucci.

“She just makes the garden club really awesome. I don’t know what it be.”

“Probably boring.”


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