by Ryan Labadens, NCBC Public Affairs

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, preschoolers at the Child Development Center (CDC) onboard the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, were able to attend their kindergarten transition ceremony, dubbed their “End of Year Celebration,” in-person onboard the Seabee base May 21, 2021.

This came as a welcome sign to families and friends of the nine children, as well as the CDC staff who have looked forward to experiencing a return to some of the “old norms” they enjoyed with the children before the COVID-19 pandemic began, said Pamela Carlisle, CDC director with Child Youth Programs oversight onboard NCBC Gulfport.

“We’re excited as a youth program to be able to make a step toward normalcy again,” said Carlisle.

The End of Year Celebration, which was held in the base training hall, gave the staff the opportunity to recognize and celebrate with the three-year old children who are transitioning into the CDC’s four- and five-year-olds classes, as well as the five-year-olds who will be transitioning into kindergarten for the 2021-2022 school year.

“The importance of a ceremony like this is it helps the children and the families to make that transition from preschool to big school, and it’s an opportunity for us to showcase what the children have learned while they’ve been here in our program. School readiness is our goal – we always want to put our best foot forward, because these children certainly do,” said Carlisle.

During the ceremony the children displayed their knowledge of the days of the week, months of the year, colors both in English and Spanish, the different U.S. coins, and the Pledge of Allegiance. They also rocked out to various songs played throughout the ceremony, all in celebration of their accomplishments over the school year. Capt. Jeff Powell, NCBC Gulfport commanding officer, congratulated the children during the ceremony and presented them their certificates.

This ceremony also comes on the heels of the Navy base having transitioned to Health Protection Condition (HPCON) Bravo about two weeks ago, giving Sailors the freedom to attend more on- and off-base events and to patron more off-base business establishments.

In addition, almost one week ago new Department of Defense (DoD) guidance came out stating people on DoD facilities, such as NCBC Gulfport, no longer need to wear masks in most areas on base if it has been two weeks since they received their COVID-19 vaccination.

This guidance is in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations regarding mask wearing after a person has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Carlisle praised the perseverance of both her staff, the children and their families throughout the pandemic.

“Even with the way things have been, we have continued to strive to provide a quality preschool program for our families,” said Carlisle, who noted how excited she and the staff were to be able to have this ceremony for the children. “It’s just as important for our staff as it is for our families, starting that  progression toward life as we knew it. Of course I think we’ll always be forever changed, but it just shows the resiliency of our military families and our staff to support those families.”

“I am very excited that we get to start it back up this year,” said Janice Richardson, CDC lead program assistant. “Last year we didn’t get to have [the End of Year Ceremony] because of COVID, but the kids were really excited, and they were practicing really hard – so I just feel wonderful! It makes me really happy that we can have something like this again.”

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Victor Lorenzo from the NCBC Gulfport Security Department, whose daughter Emma is moving on to kindergarten next school year, praised the efforts of all the CDC staff for the dedication they showed in teaching and caring for the children.

“I just want to give a big shout out to everyone here… all the ladies at the CDC who have always been more than supportive with everything at that center, especially during COVID. The way that they’ve conducted themselves throughout this pandemic, making it possible for us to go to work and carry out our jobs on this base, is nothing short of honorary,” said Lorenzo. “They are the true core values of the Navy – honor, courage and commitment – because it takes all three of those to do what they’ve done throughout this pandemic. Big ups to the CDC.”