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Military Youth and Teen Programs

Military youth and teen programs are designed to support military children as they transition from childhood into adulthood. Youth centers are available on almost every installation where families PCS. Centers are staffed with trained professionals who understand how to connect with youth, support them in their teen years and recognize the signs of stress. Continuity of programming between installations can help your child feel part of the military community and make the transition to a new installation smoother.

Child and youth programs provide safe, developmentally-appropriate places for your child to socialize and grow, develop essential skills and make lasting connections. Enriched program experiences and activities are available year-round, including during summer breaks, holidays, and before- and after-school hours.

Youth centers

Active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members, and Defense Department civilians may all take advantage of an installation’s youth center services. While centers offer continuity of programming to youth as they transition to new installations, each youth center offers its own unique catalogue of activities. Encourage your youth to engage with their local youth center. A variety of experiences are waiting, including computer labs for homework support and tutoring, field trips, gymnasiums for supervised sports, and fitness, music and game rooms. Check out these and more at your local youth center.

Youth Programs

Your local installation can link your child or teen to a variety of youth programs and resources, including youth development programs, youth sponsorship, sports and fitness activities and camps. For additional information about quality programs offered near you, find your local installation youth programs/center on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Youth Sports and Fitness Programs are designed to engage youth in fun activities that enhance the emotional, physical, social and educational well-being of participants. They are offered in a variety of settings including leagues, camps, clinics or instructional formats and are supervised and organized based on age, developmental level and physical ability.

Open recreation time is available after school and on weekends on a drop-in basis and is also available during the summer and school vacations. Children and teens can drop by and hang out with friends in an environment with caring, professional adults. Open rec times also have scheduled activities, such as cooking lessons and homework and tutoring help. Your local installation youth center also offers a variety of youth development programs that emphasize leadership and service, education and STEM (or science, technology, engineering and math) programs, health and wellness, and the arts.

Installation youth programs offer a variety of instructional programs, including gymnastics and martial arts, an assortment of dance classes, and music and theater offerings.

Military installations offer youth sponsorship to facilitate the integration of military-connected youth and teens into new surroundings when making a PCS to a new installation. The program is primarily directed toward preteens and teens. Most sponsorship programs offer outreach (providing youth/parents information on the local area, schools and activities), newcomer orientation to share programs and services available on installation and in the surrounding community, as well as peer-to-peer connection at the gaining installation.

For more information, contact your new installation’s youth program found on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. The youth program staff at your new installation can offer more information on the Youth Sponsorship Program. Your local school liaison can also assist with youth sponsorship referrals to ensure a smooth transition for your child and connect youth to peers who are already participating in the installation, school or community programs.

Families with children can also visit Military Kids Connect, an online community for military children and youth. The site offers games, videos and links to teen-led installation tours. For families with young children, Sesame Street for Military Families offers transition support and resources.

Service-specific child and youth programs

Every branch of the military service has its own children and youth program, offering affordable full-time and flexible child care, as well as instructional, recreational and educational youth programs. The youth programs listed above are provided at most installations. Service-level child and youth programs provide age-appropriate activities in a structured setting either on or off the installation. Check out your service-specific program.

Visit MyArmyBenefits to review all of the programs available to Army families. Explore the Benefits Library and search for services by category, such as family services, to find out what’s available to you and your family on or near your installation. You can also connect to your local installation youth programs/center through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Visit Marine Corps Community Services child and youth programs for a list of programs offered through MCCS or search MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to learn more about your specific installation’s offerings through the child development center, school-age care or youth programs.

Navy child and youth programs offer developmental child care and youth recreational services for children and youth from infancy to 18 years. Find your installation’s specific youth program offerings through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.

Air Force child development and youth programs provide child care for children from 6 weeks to 12 years of age in on-base child development centers and school-age programs in youth centers. Before- and after-school care and care on school holidays and during summer months is available for children 5 to 12 years old. Discover additional programs that may be offered at your installation, such as the Extended Duty Child Care Program and the Returning Home Care Program, by using the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS program lookup tool.

Visit the Army National Guard Child and Youth Services to learn about youth programs available to National Guard families. Explore local offerings that include instructional skill programs such as photography and woodworking, educational programs and community-based child care programs.

Our Military Kids offers grants to National Guard and reserve families during deployments. The grants are to help cover children’s activities when families have trouble accessing support services from military installations. Our Military Kids also offers grants to children of injured military members to pay for participation in sports, fine arts and academic tutoring.

The Military Family Readiness System serves National Guard and reserve families. The program educates unit and family members about their benefits and entitlements. You can find out more about family programs and eligibility for Military OneSource services, as well as learn about your family’s benefits through the Military and Family Support Center nearest you.

Camp programs

A variety of camps are available to help provide new experiences for children and teens and to help them connect to other military youth. Read more to find out about available camps.

Defense Department summer camps may be a great addition to your children’s summer lineup to keep them engaged and having fun after school lets out. From teen adventure and science camps to installation-specific camps, DOD STARBASE and DOD STEM, you can find something so your child or teen can start exploring. Check with your local installation youth center for additional summer camp information.

Operation Purple® Camp from the National Military Family Association brings together military children from all services and offers a family retreat that provides military families with a chance to reconnect and bond.

The Armed Services YMCA offers Operation Camp, fun and educational day and residential camps that encourage healthy living and recreation. These camps offer opportunities for military children to make meaningful connections with peers who also experience the challenges of military life. Serving over 10,000 children each year, these camps help youth build confidence, improve social skills and equip them with tools and resources to better handle the challenges of military life.

Sponsored in conjunction with Purdue University, Military Teen Adventure Camps offer outdoor experiences for military-connected teens ages 13-18. Children of active-duty, National Guard, reserve and retired service members have the opportunity to participate at little or no cost. Camp activities include whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, ropes courses, winter camping and backpacking. The camps allow teens to build their leadership and teamwork skills as well as self-confidence.

Preteen programs

In addition to the diverse programming offered through Youth Programs mentioned above, opportunities are available to preteens to get more involved and develop team and leadership skills. Learn about these programs at your local youth center.

Available at your local youth center and offered through the DOD partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, this citizenship and leadership program is open to preteens 11-13 years of age and focuses activities on service to the Club and the greater community, health and fitness, education and social recreation. Youth participate in field trips and take part in decision-making and character-development experiences.

Teen programs

In addition to the diverse programming offered through Youth Programs mentioned above, specific opportunities are available to teens to get more involved in the community and develop team and leadership skills and enhance their college preparedness. The following programs are held at your local youth center through the DOD’s partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Open to teens ages 14-18 years, Keystone Clubs are offered through Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The program focuses on leadership development through academic success, career preparation and community service.

Each year thousands of Boys & Girls Clubs of America teens participate in local, state and regional events leading up to the Military Youth of the Year and National Youth of the Year honors for exemplary teens who have overcome setbacks, demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments, and are prepared to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America programming includes employment and college readiness, as well as financial management training, such as:

  • CareerLaunch — a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to explore careers, assess skills and preparedness for postsecondary education or joining the workforce, and navigate college and job-search resources
  • Money Matters — a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to learn how to manage a checking account, create a budget, start a small business, pay for college, and save and invest
  • diplomas2Degrees — a program designed to prepare high schoolers for college and career success by helping teens develop both short- and long-term goals and prepare for postsecondary education through experiences such as college tours

Children and youth programs offered through military partnerships

If your closest military installation youth/teen center is not conveniently located near your home or duty station, you can still benefit from other military youth and teen programs in your area. The DOD partners with several organizations to offer additional programming and options for military-connected youth. These include partnerships with 4-H and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. They help military youth build resilience, independence and leadership skills that will serve them throughout their lives. Explore offerings from Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 4-H, National Military Family Association and more.

The U.S. Armed Forces has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 30 years to help support children of military families with youth development programs, curriculums and activities. Education and workforce readiness programs include:

  • Mission Youth Outreach — a free membership to local Boys & Girls Clubs for military youth ages 6 to 18 who do not live near or have access to a military youth center
  • Money Matters — a program for youth ages 13 to 18 to learn how to manage a checking account, create a budget, start a small business, pay for college, and save and invest
  • diplomas2Degrees — a program designed to prepare high schoolers for college and career success by helping teens develop both short- and long-term goals and prepare for postsecondary education through experiences such as college tours
  • Summer Brain Gain — a program to encourage summer learning and keep youth engaged in reading through one-week themed modules for elementary, middle school and high school students
  • MyFuture — a program that teaches foundational technology skills and develops computer literacy

4-H Military Partnership brings the resources of land grant universities to military youth programs. These resources include youth development professionals, research-based curricula and high-quality training and technical assistance for installation youth programs staff.

Military youth can join 4-H clubs in their community and also participate in summer camps around the country. 4-H offers a wealth of resources in STEM subjects, healthy living, citizenship, public speaking and other military core program areas providing valuable life skills, curriculum and resources for military youth and teens across the country and around the world.

The Armed Services YMCA offers a range of programs for military families, including:

  • Operation Hero After-School Program — This free after-school program is designed for military children in grades 2-8 to help students cope and adjust to the unique challenges of military life, such as frequent moves and deployment separation.
  • Operation Camp — These fun and educational day and residential camps encourage healthy living and recreation.
  • Operation Little Learners — This parent-child program is designed to enhance child development.
  • Child care and preschool — A number of care options are available for service members and their children.

Operation Purple® Camp brings together military children from all services to connect with peers who have similar experiences, like frequent moves, deployed parents and even a parent’s injury. Youth enjoy kayaking, horseback riding and service activities to help the community.

Operation Purple Family Retreats® helps 75+ families each year reunite and reintegrate after deployments. Families can unplug and relax and also attend organized activities to help strengthen and renew their relationships.

Operation Purple Healing Adventures® serves approximately 40 families each year through family retreats designed specifically to help families of wounded, ill or injured service members. These long-weekend experiences help families adjust to their “new normal” and rediscover family fun and togetherness.

Operation Purple® at Home is a free, virtual camp experience designed to bring the fun and connection of in-person camps and retreats to military families at home during the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. Families can take part in self-paced and guided activities and connect virtually with other military families.

Parents and youth can rely on youth centers to be a safe, supportive and consistent place to hang out — no matter where the military takes them. The continuity of programming between installations and connection to community are valuable benefits to help your youth make a smooth transition between installations. Youth programs are just one aspect of benefits available to your military-connected child or teen. Discover more ways you can help your military youth and teens transition and explore the wealth of child and youth education and employment benefits available.

Contact your local installation for specific child and youth programs or reach out to Military OneSource for help with child and youth questions. Our consultants are available 24/7/365. Call 800-342-9647, set up a live chat or view overseas calling options to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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