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Children in the Sure Start program at the Darmstadt Elementary School perform a song during Thursday’s grand opening of the program’s new building.

Children in the Sure Start program at the Darmstadt Elementary School perform a song during Thursday’s grand opening of the program’s new building. (Jayme Loppnow / Special to Stripes)

DARMSTADT, Germany — With a more spacious building to romp around, some Darmstadt children are sure to get a great start in education.

Sure Start, a preschool program mainly for children of junior enlisted troops, formally dedicated a new building at the Darmstadt Elementary School grounds last week.

The event was marked with impressions of the new facility from Diana Ohman, the director of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, and Russ Claus, school principal.

Though a false fire alarm interrupted the gala, children were soon returned to their classrooms in straight lines, and went back to singing and cheering on the new addition. After the ceremonial cake slicing, Ohman took over serving responsibilities. Parents and children mingled, discussing what a difference the new building makes in the month it has been used.

“The new place looks great. There’s a lot more storage space and it looks more organized,” said Amy Watson, the mother of Kierstyn Ouellette, 6, who attended Sure Start last year. “I was very impressed with the discipline taught in class. By the end of the year she knew her letters, sounds and was beginning to read before kindergarten. It gave her a great start.”

After the ceremony Janine Ugalde, Sure Start teacher, gushed about the new features available to the class.

“I love it, I love it, I love it,” she said. “Having a full kitchen allows us to explore new activities with cooking and cooking related to science. We can also incorporate reading and math skills with it.”

Ugalde said many parents — especially some buff moms — helped get the facility moved and running within three days.

She said the new Sure Start building has been open since the third week of January.

“We thought we were going to need more dads [for moving], but the moms really came through. I was impressed,” Ugalde said.

Sure Start is the overseas DODDS equivalent to the Stateside Head Start program, according to Uglade.

She said Sure Start provides qualifying children with a high quality, developmentally appropriate education that will prepare them for school.

Claus said there are a number of criteria looked at for students to qualify for this special DOD program. These include rank, the number of siblings in a household, and whether or not a foreign language is spoke in the house.

Ugalde suggests any junior enlisted troop apply for the program.

“A lot of kindergarten teachers have noticed an impact on children who have experienced the Sure Start program,” Ugalde said.


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