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Center offers Incirlik youth diverse activities

Kaitlyn Mergil hula hoops while her friends watch at the Youth Center Sept. 22.  The Youth Center is a place for kids to go to spend time with their friends, listen to music, watch movies, or dance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Colburn)

Kaitlyn Mergil hula hoops while her friends watch at the Youth Center Sept. 22. The Youth Center is a place for kids to go to spend time with their friends, listen to music, watch movies, or dance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Colburn)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- It's a playground.
It's an amusement park.
It's a video arcade.
No, it's the Incirlik Youth Center. 

It may seem like a big playground complete with gymnasium, snack bar, skateboard park, tennis courts, foosball tables, big screen TV, video games and loads more for children ages 6 to 18, but the Youth Programs here have a mission. Youth Programs supports the base's mission by providing programs for youth which are physically, socially and emotionally essential to development. The center offers three programs tailored to fit the needs of the youth of Incirlik - School Age Program, Open Recreation for youth and teens, and Youth Sports. 

The School Age Program offers supervised before- and after-school care for children ages 5 to 12 with structured activities, breakfast and a snack. This program is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The program staff members even get the children to the bus on time every school morning. 

"I like coming here because they have fun things for us to do," said Barron Frazier, 6.
Open Recreation is exactly what its name implies, recreation open to children ages 9 to 18. Unlike the School Age Program, the activities available in open recreation - playing in the gym, watching movies, checking out information on the computers, playing video games - allow children to participate in a variety of activities of their choosing. Children who are 6 ages 8 can participate in the same activities, but must be accompanied by an adult or sibling age 16 or older. Open recreation allows children to sign themselves in and out of the Youth Center during open recreation hours Monday through Thursday from 2:30 to 8 p.m., Friday from 2:30 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. 

A common misconception at Incirlik is that there is nothing for the teens. But the center is open for this age group from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. During Teen Center hours, only teens ages 13 to 18 are allowed in the center to use the equipment and attend teen-related activities. 

"We hold teen dances and camps geared specifically toward their interests and desires," said Kim Anderson, Youth Programs recreation assistant who has worked for the Incirlik Youth Programs for one year but worked with youth centers Air Force-wide for more than six years. "In fact, we just replaced the pool table, air hockey table and other equipment as well as added programs to meet the changing interests of the youth population here." 

While the School Age Program is the only program which requires parents or guardians to pay a fee for its use, the other programs require youth to purchase a membership. By purchasing the membership youth receive discount prices on sports, and teen and open recreation events. They can also checkout video/board games and participate in other planned events. Membership is $36 for 12 months or $18 for six months and provides children with an identification card of their own.