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YP After 3: the place for kids to be

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It takes a village to raise a child, or in the case of Air Force families, a base.

The R.P. Lee Youth Center offers life skill programs, homework assistance, and mentorship from caring adults during their afterschool youth program, called YP After 3.

YP After 3 is based on core program areas including the arts, character and leadership, education and career develop, health and life skills, and sports fitness and recreation. Dorothy Choate, Airman and Family Services flight chief, said children between the ages nine and 15 don't necessarily need traditional afterschool childcare, but that doesn't mean kids should sit at home after school.

"From the ages of nine up to 18; that's when (children) start making their lifelong choices, which path they're going to choose," Choate said. "At that point in time, if they are not active in a program that supports healthy lifestyles, positive belonging, and things like that, they can tend to make poor choices. That's when our graduation rates go down; we have drug and alcohol problems, and so on."

YP After 3 is the new face of youth centers across the Air Force. The mission and programming is the same, but youth center directors are hoping to increase their regular daily attendance.

According to Choate, anywhere between 75 and 80 children regularly attend after school programs at the youth center. The goal is to get attendance up to 100.

"We want our children who do not need traditional childcare, these children between the ages of nine and 15, we want to be the place they come to," Choate said. "We want to provide a positive environment, an enriched environment. Our philosophy is, great futures start here."

The youth center is an affiliated member of the Boys and Girls Club of America, which gives the youth center access to curriculum that falls under the YP After 3 umbrella and is tested for success, Choate said.

Recently, the youth center reached out to parents and children for suggestions about what can be improved, Choate said.

One of the main suggestions was a separate area for teens.

"Our teens wanted a place of their own, so we made the teen room in the youth center solely for teens," she said.

Additionally, teens from the youth center have been actively participating in programs with the Boys and Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region.

This summer, 14 teens represented Peterson Air Force Base at Close Up in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit program established in 1971 that educates and inspires young people to become informed and engaged citizens.

Teens from the program also helped with volunteer efforts during the Waldo Canyon fire and volunteered during SnoFest at Keystone Ski Resort.

"All of (the volunteering) is because our teens said, 'We want more,'" Choate said.

A new website for the youth center will be launched Nov. 1, focusing on the benefits to YP After 3 participants.

"The time is about to change and it's going to start getting dark sooner. Kids need a place to go. We want to be the place where, when kids get off the bus, they want to come to us," Choate said.

Parents are encouraged to stop by the youth center to learn more about programming and membership. For information call 556-7220.

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