By Loran Doane, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii dedicated a new School Age Center, here, June 2, to children of all fallen Soldiers of the U.S. Army in Hawaii.

The $12.3 million School Age Center is named “Napua Koa,” which is Hawaiian for “The Children of the Warrior.”

“To be a warrior is to sacrifice. Our Soldiers and their families have given a lot of themselves and endured personal hardships during lengthy deployments away from home,” said Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, USAG-HI. “In return, we have promised to take care of our families, to provide them with quality programs and safe communities where they can grow and thrive.

“The School Age Center and planned Child Development Center are the products of that promise, providing our children – the children of the warriors – tools and facilities to learn, to explore or to just be kids,” Margotta added.

Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye attended the dedication. Addressing the gathered families and community members, Inouye assured them that Congress will “do everything possible to make certain that your dependents who have to sweat it out at home will live as normal a life as possible.”

As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Inouye plays a major role in drafting legislation to allocate funds to the military and various other government agencies.

In his remarks, he recounted a recent conversation he had while meeting with colleagues several weeks ago.

“One of my colleagues asked me the question, ‘Why are we spending so much for these non-military-type activities?’ I told my colleague, these men are all volunteers,” Inouye said.

“They are volunteers. They were not forced to join. They’re volunteering their bodies for us,” Inouye continued. “The least we can do is to make certain that their families, their children live a normal life – best education, best training – and if we’re not up to it, then we have no business sending our men and women off to combat.”

After the formal dedication, Inouye and other attendees toured the new facility, seeing all of the things one would expect to find in a place of learning, such as classrooms, study areas, a computer lab and a multipurpose room, as well as a Techno Fun Room, a Performing Arts Room, an outdoor soccer field and a basketball court.

The Techno Fun Room contains the latest state-of-the-art gaming systems and electronic devices to support children’s daily learning experiences. The room provides a fun place to kick back, relax and enjoy some time hanging out with friends from school.

The Performing Arts Room provides props, costumes, music and scripts, allowing children to explore various performing arts, from dance to signing and even small stage productions.

Center staff expects the building to be at full capacity with the start of the upcoming Summer Day Camp program, which runs from June 1 to July 30. Children can participate in swimming events, numerous arts and crafts activities, team sports, special interest clubs and weekly excursions to other educational venues.

“The most exciting addition to the educational experiences that we offer our children, comes from the facility’s smaller demonstration kitchen,” said Julie Ariola, director of the center. “We’ll be able to provide children the opportunity to work on food projects and observe cooking demonstrations outside of the larger kitchen area.

“Even if it is something simple, like learning to make healthy snacks, or preparing salads, the demonstration kitchen allows us to set the seed of good nutrition at a time in their lives when children are most receptive to learning,” Ariola said.

Army school-age centers offer before- and after-school programs for Army children in kindergarten through fifth grade. In Hawaii, more than 350 children are currently enrolled in these centers at Schofield Barracks, Aliamanu Military Reservation, Fort Shafter and Helemano Military Reservation.

The centers charge users a monthly fee, based on total family income, which covers all meals, transportation, supplies and staff labor costs.

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