There are a lot of stereotypes about teenagers. They are not young kids anymore, but they certainly aren’t adults. They are in a weird in-between place trying to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. The responsibility of their development and future is most often left to the school system and their families, but this can’t be the only solution. Because of your generosity, we are able to help hundreds of teens and young adults in our community every year through programs such as Y Achievers, YMCA Leaders Club, and the CREW and E-Team programs at YMCA Camp Ernst.
Programs like these are critical to the teens and young adults in our community. They have proven success- a 100% graduation rate and 70% increase in financial literacy for students in the Y Achievers program; independence, social-emotional growth, and job skills at Camp Ernst; and, increased involvement in volunteer activities, tangible leadership skills, and personal growth through Leaders Club. More importantly, these programs create real, in-person opportunities for teens to connect with other teens and with adult mentors creating a sense of belonging that is the most important outcome of all. This is more important than ever in a time where mental health issues and isolation are at an all-time high, especially among teens.
And yet, teen programs are difficult to make happen. These programs require dedicated time from volunteers and staff. They need funding and ongoing financial support so they can remain accessible to everyone, regardless of income or family situation. The generosity of donors and volunteers is the only reason these programs are able to help teens thrive.
The impact of teen programs can be felt, and seen, well into adulthood. A current YMCA staff member and donor, Elizabeth Day, was a part of both the Leaders Club at the Tri-City YMCA in Florence, KY and attended Camp Ernst through her teen years. Elizabeth shared with us how these programs impacted her life. Elizabeth said, “Leaders Club gave me role models who put service to others as the highest priority in their life. They believed in me before I believed in myself and pushed me to do great things. Camp Ernst was the first place I ever felt like I could truly be myself and I felt accepted for exactly the person I was. I am the woman I am today because of YMCA programs like Leaders Club and Camp Ernst. I grew up volunteering and working with people from so many different backgrounds and situations. I met people from other countries. We came together and worked hard to make our YMCA and community better. We were empowered to create solutions and take ownership of the projects and programs we ran. I was lucky enough to be able to have come from a family who could afford these programs without much concern, but that wasn’t the case for many of my friends. There were people in my club and at camp who would tell you with absolute certainty that these programs saved their life. They would have ended up in terrible situations if it weren’t for the guidance and structure they had at the Y. The feeling of belonging we had, and the skills we learned, are something everyone should be able to experience- regardless of their family situation or financial ability.”
Programs like Achievers, Leaders Club, and CREW cannot exist or operate without generous donors like you who believe in pouring into our future leaders. They want to thank YOU for believing in them.
Want to know more details about what these programs are?
The Y Achievers is a college readiness and career exploration program which provides teens with the essential tools to pursue higher education and to identify different career opportunities. It is a national program geared toward first-generation college students and minorities and is delivered through workshops, college tours, Toastmasters training, STEM, and more. This program is an important asset in our efforts to help build a better us and a better, more equitable future.
YMCA Leaders Club is a leadership development, community service program that helps teens discover their full potential. It is a safe place where teens can come and simply be themselves. This program provides teens with extensive leadership training and volunteer opportunities that support YMCA programs and services to the community. The teens in this program give back to their local YMCA branches by volunteering in programs such as swim lessons, youth sports, and events such as Healthy Kids Day and the Fall Festivals. They also run a monthly Parent Nights Out for kids!
Each summer the teens attend a rigorous leadership school in North Carolina where they are challenged to grow and learn. The teens from the R.C. Durr YMCA had an amazing experience last summer and have implemented what they learned here at home. This experience is impactful and life-changing for teen leaders.
YMCA Camp Ernst has teen programming down to a science. Through their Leader In Training, CREW, and E-Team programs, teens have a continuous development of leadership skills through experiential service learning. These programs are designed to increase responsibility and independence while safely being guided by adult leaders.