Howard County and the Columbia community are fortunate to have a thriving business community and a top-notch school system. I believe those two entities go hand-in-hand and are a result of the high standard of living envisioned for our region, plus the work it takes to achieve and maintain that standard.

A key component of an environment in which businesses can thrive is for children to have a safe, fun and productive place to be while their parents are at work. Columbia Association (CA) is proud to provide several programs for youth and teens, both during the school year and when classes are not in session.

For more than three decades, CA has offered Before and After School Care. Today, this program is in 20 locations in Columbia and adjoining communities. An overwhelming majority of participants are of elementary school age, who enroll in 1,800 spots — 700 in the morning sessions that begin at 7 a.m. and go until the first bell, and 1,100 in afternoon sessions that start when school is out and continue until 6 p.m.

On a much more limited basis, CA also provides After School Care for approximately 50 to 75 participants of middle school age. Each site is licensed by the Maryland Department of Education, as are the employees, who are comprehensively trained and continue their education.

The Before and After School Program at CA is self-funding, and is one of many other programs and services offered by CA that complements its mission of providing a high quality of life for those who live, work and play in Columbia and the greater Howard County area.

Even after working parents get home, there are KidSpace facilities available for when they go to work out or relax at the Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia Gym, Supreme Sports Club and Haven on the Lake. Each KidSpace area at these CA facilities provides a safe and secure environment and has a daily schedule of activities.

CA’s Youth and Teen Center has a drop-in recreation program for kids between the ages of 9 and 18. The program runs Monday through Friday, from 2:30 to 6 p.m. during the school year and from 2 to 7 p.m. during the summer. The Youth and Teen Center and CA’s middle school and teen committees also offer much more, including events around the community, mentorship and volunteer opportunities.

In addition, there are CA’s summer camps, year-round programs at the Columbia Art Center, fun activities at Columbia SportsPark and SkatePark, ice skating at Columbia Ice Rink, roller skating at Supreme Sports Club and CA’s outdoor pools, as well as the Columbia Swim Center.

CA works to serve many different demographics and generations. I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that the programs and services CA offers for kids also benefit their parents and our community as a whole, as we continue to make Columbia the community of choice — for today’s generations and for generations to come.

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