What are your memorable childhood memories?

Running barefoot in summertime on freshly cut grass through a water sprinkler? Finding the perfect place to set up a “clubhouse” with your friends? Savoring the smell of freshly baked warm cookies?

For me, it was being a summer camper at this very YMCA’s Camp Douglas.

We all have memorable moments of our childhood.

Today at the West Cook YMCA, we’re able to create some very special memories for young people every day, all year long—in Preschool and After School programs, at our Summer Day Camp, at the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center in Maywood or in the Y’s pool and gym.

Our whole approach is to nourish the development of every child and every teen who walks through our doors or joins one of our programs or events in the ten west suburban communities we serve.

At the core of how we approach youth development is that we believe that all kids deserve opportunities to discover who they are and what they can achieve. Our focus is on cultivating values, skills and relationships that lead to positive behaviors, better health and educational achievement. 

At the West Cook YMCA, our commitment to Youth Development is very intentional:

We’re able to draw upon the considerable experience and resources of Y-USA, the largest provider of child and youth programming in the U.S.

Nationally, the YMCA is widely recognized for its many initiatives designed to close the achievement gap of young people.  Through its inspiration and leadership, local YMCAs across the country, like the West Cook Y, are better able to provide every child in our care the opportunity to develop cognitive, physical, and social-emotional skills.

At the West Cook YMCA, we’re committed to strengthening and expanding our capacity to respond to the needs of young people from ages 2 to 17 in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.  And, as we move forward, we see this as the path to become more engaged with families and young people in the other seven west suburban communities that we serve.

We undertake the initiative to better serve the needs of young people by expanding, training and building our professional staff, under the leadership of Youth Development Director Elizabeth Lopez, keeping abreast of the latest educational trends in child and teen development, and then delivering scores of programs and opportunities to help all young people realize their potential.

We’re identifying unique and well equipped facilities in which to conduct our programs.

We’re upgrading and strengthening existing programs and adding new ones as we learn of real needs.

 To help better understand the reality of the world of children and youth today, we’re building and maintaining strategic partnerships with other organizations in the communities we serve that have a common interest in improving the lives of young people. These include such organizations as the Collaboration for Early Childhood, Illinois Youth Council, Dominican University, Cook County Forest Preserves, local schools and other institutions.

Currently, we’re engaged in a series of listening sessions with the leadership of the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park school systems. 

We’re asking educators, “What do you need to help our youth? How can the Y be of help? What’s practical and doable in both the short- and long-term future?” We want to understand the reality of the world in which children and teens live today so we can adjust and shape our programs to their needs. 

Long story short—the West Cook YMCA is strengthening, expanding and building our Youth Development program, not based on any preconceived ideas to fill up an already packed program schedule but to respond to the actual needs of families, children and youth in the communities we serve.

A good example of how the Y integrates its programs is our holistic approach to aquatics. Our Program Guide details scores of opportunities to learn an important life skill. We teach Y kids to swim and be comfortable in the water. Our pupils range from tiny tots to talented teens in the Competitive Swim Team program.

We encourage healthy living for kids, demonstrating proper exercise techniques and advocating healthy snacking.

We’re able to offer Youth Development programs with the assistance of grants, such as a Y-USA grant of $5,000 for an After School pilot project, and anonymous donors such as one who donated $10,000 for Preschool scholarships and another who contributed $50,000 for School Age program scholarships.

At the Y, we believe that what’s learned at an early age becomes the building blocks for a good quality of life and future success. The youngest children in our care—the preschoolers—are provided terrific opportunities to experience early literacy and to learn about their world and how to become their very best selves.

These pages contain stories and photos about the West Cook YMCA’s people and programs focused on helping youth develop health literacy, make good decisions for themselves and grow and mature at every level—mind, body and spirit.

Phillip Jiménez

President & CEO

West Cook YMCA

Join the discussion on social media!