In today’s world, investing in developing youth first calls for minimizing inequities in society. Notes Jimenez, “We are very reflective on incorporating the realities of inequities facing our youth and families. We are working to help young people grow into thriving adults who can transform communities into places where everyone feels welcome and safe and has equal access to opportunity. It is through the generosity of our members, donors, and community supporters, the Y is able to offer a mix of funding to support initiatives such as addressing the Achievement Gap through a summer learning loss program, offering safety around water lessons in Maywood, and providing chronic disease prevention programs at multiple partner locations throughout the service area.”
One key outreach is the Y’s before and after school programming, Y-Kids. The new location of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Forest Park, offers larger facilities with more access for families and children. With nine classrooms, a gym and a playground, more children than ever can benefit from the Y’s school age programming. Y-kids offers the most extensive hours in the community for before and after school care, giving children a safe and educational place and enabling working parents the time to commute and work: a win-win for families and the community.
Camp Magellan also utilizes the St. John’s campus during the summer months. Jimenez points out that both after-school and summer programming are a key part of the Y’s commitment to youth and community. “We provide $100,000 in scholarships for families for Y-Kids and Camp Magellan throughout the twelve months of the year. Our members and donors help facilitate this by giving back to the community. When you’re working out, you’re also facilitating the improvement of your community.”
The West Cook YMCA also addresses specific needs in the community through youth programming via targeted partnerships and collaborations. This summer, the Power Scholars Academy will work with students in Districts 90 and 91 to address the summer learning loss gap. In Maywood, the Y partners with the Village of Maywood, YMCA of the USA Strategic Initiatives Fund, Maywood Rotary Club, and USA Swimming Foundation to provide free water safety classes to over 250 individuals at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center in Maywood. The Healthy Weight and Your Child program in partnership with Loyola University Health System at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park provides support to prevent childhood obesity through weight management and lifestyle changes for families and PCC Community Wellness has sponsored the program that is offered at the West Cook YMCA. All of the West Cook YMCA’s work in academics, enrichment and health are part of the larger picture of building community through youth development. With over $200,000 in scholarships per year targeted for family programming, Jimenez says the Y is focused on providing the tools needed to support all aspects of Youth Development. “It’s not a matter of can you afford it. It’s can you afford not to?”