More than 500 children and parents attended the Back to School Bash Friday at the Montague Youth Center. 

“The Back to School Bash, one, is just to celebrate the summer coming to a close and the youth being with us, being safe, and doing community service outreach,” Facility Director Keshia Gray said.

Free activities, food, shaved ice-cream, backpacks and school supplies were provided from 2-6 p.m. More than 200 backpacks were raffled away, and handed out. The Financial Readiness Program also gave out free piggy banks to children and youth during the event.

Activities included a basketball tournament, trampoline bungee jumping, an inflatable wreaking ball, a meltdown inflatable, and arts and crafts.

Montague Youth Center is a before and after school program for sixth-12th grade. Gray said that there are about 500 youth in the program on any given day. The Montague Youth Center is open Monday-Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

“We do lots of activities with them: we take them on trips to colleges, we do goals to graduation, we do a career launch – to help them map out the path they think they want to do, we provide all kinds of activities, we help them with their homework, we do SAT and ACT prep, we do community service – to help them get their community service hours that they need for school, just lots of things …,” Gray said.

Gray said having a before and after school program on post available for the youth is important, because the parents are Soldiers who are continuously working late, in the field or on deployment. Gray also said that the program keeps the youth engaged and out of trouble.

Shirley Dugger, like many parents at the event, attended to prepare their youth to go back school.

Dugger said that her biggest concern during the school year is for her 15-year-old daughter, Nyeelah, to have safe and available before and after school care on the installation. Dugger also has a 3-year-old son, Carlos Jr.

“It is safe, we feel comfortable, because the kids are being watched properly, but also they help with homework and have different clubs and activities for the kids, so it’s keeping them busy as well,” Dugger said. “I like the fact that they have someone here to help them, to tutor them...”

Dugger said they try to set their children up for success in order to better prepare them for the future.

Dugger’s husband, Carlos, is an active duty Soldier on the installation, which means having available care for their children is important. This will be Nyeelah’s second year in the before and after school program.

“The staff I think are very welcoming, very down to earth, very informative, and friendly,” Dugger said.

Gray said that events at the center help with community outreach.

“We just have really great partnerships with our schools and our families,” Gray said.

Nyeelah said that she enjoys coming to the Montague Youth Center, because of her friends, the activities and the field trip opportunities.

“I like the field trips that we go on,” Nyeelah said. “The Six Flags trip was really really fun – it was for Halloween and then we also went to Top Golf in Austin.”

Nyeelah shared that she is looking forward to going back to school and that her favorite subject is science.

“I just hope,” Gray said, “that all the children and youth can be excited about going back to school – seeing their friends, seeing their teachers, looking forward to what they can learn.”