Leaders Made Here
So much of what we learn has to do with the opportunities we’re given. At the Y, we want young people to explore their possibilities and think big!
It can be hard to figure out your place in the world. As a young person with your whole life ahead of you, having the right guidance and support can make a real difference in figuring out who you are and what you can achieve. Whether kids come to the Y looking to explore their interests, or for support in navigating challenges, the Y is committed to nurturing children and teens and roots for their success.
“Before leaders club, I spent my time with nothing to do but stay home and watch tv. I was lazy, never felt like doing anything and had nothing to look forward to. But one day while signing up for our afterschool program, I decided to try something new and be in leaders club. After I joined, I thought it would be boring, but after a while, it felt like they was [sic] family to me. Leaders Club really changed my life. We go out and help with the community, do fun activities, take trips to rallies, etc. Going through this experience made me feel like there are lots of opportunities and I should go for it.”
— YMCA of Greater St. Paul Leader’s Club participant
Started in Houston, TX in 1967 to provide African American teens with a positive sense of self and aspirations for professional careers in the workforce, the purpose of YMCA Black Achievers is “to help teens of color set and pursue high educational and career goals resulting in graduation and acceptance to an institution of higher learning.” Black Achievers programs meet weekly or bi-weekly throughout the year at local YMCAs, high schools or college campuses all over the country. Through academic aid, career exploration and mentoring, this program helps youth to raise their academic standards, develop a positive sense of self, build character, explore diverse college and career options, and learn from role models who inspire them to greater heights.
Leaders Clubs help develop youth ages 12 to 18 as leaders while fostering a culture of service. With adult advisors, teens have role models and mentors who can have a positive impact on their lives as they grow in their desire and ability to be a positive force in the community.
YMCA Youth in Government is a national program of the Y that involves thousands of teens nationwide in state-organized, model-government programs. Students from every corner of the U.S. have the opportunity to immerse themselves in experiential civic engagement and to, quite literally, practice democracy. Teens from across every state meet in their local Youth in Government groups throughout the year to discuss and debate issues that affect citizens of their state and to propose legislation. The program culminates with teens serving as delegates at their state conference, debating bills on the floor of the legislature.
The camp environment provides a unique opportunity for youth to build leadership skills, particularly in assisting counselors with younger campers. The goals of CIT and LIT camp programs are to teach the general skills of leadership that can be used at school, home and community (not just at camp.) For younger camp leaders (ages 13-15), the curriculum includes working with younger kids at camp, but often includes community components like volunteering at senior centers or YMCAs. Counselors-in-Training or "CITs" are the oldest campers who typically want to apply for a job at camp the next summer, maybe as a Jr Counselor or some other supporting role. They need to learn more specific skills for working with kids and co-workers, and more experience planning and leading activities. Both programs give kids age-appropriate challenges that build their skills, confidence and capacity for working with people of all ages.
Too many smart and talented young people don’t pursue higher education because they assume it’s out of their reach financially. But federal funds exist to help make a two or four-year college experience a reality. As part of the Y’s work to connect underserved youth to higher education opportunities, Ys offer and participate in College Goal Sunday—a national, volunteer-driven program that culminates in an annual event providing free information and assistance to students and families in applying for financial aid for postsecondary education.
The Y is pleased to share resources that guide adults in helping youth identify their interests, and connecting those interests to volunteer and service-learning projects in their community. The survey and conversation with adults and other teens helps young people figure out what excites them, and what skills and passions they can share as part of the larger world.
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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.