The YMCA exists to strengthen the foundations of our community through Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. We do it by teaching kids new skills that build self-confidence, character values, and leadership. We do it by helping adults and families lead healthy lifestyles. We do it by connecting older adults to an active support network. We do it by providing outlets to give back to those in need. People engage with the Y on one level, but they soon find a deeper meaning to their activities and a connection to those around them. Ultimately, at its highest form, they feel compelled to volunteer, to give back and help others strengthen the entire community.
Being healthy means more than simply being physically active. It’s about maintaining a balanced spirit, mind and body. The Y is a place where you can work toward that balance by challenging yourself to learn a new skill or hobby, fostering connections with friends through our lifelong learning programs, or bringing your loved ones closer together through our many family-centered activities. At the Y, it’s not about the activity you choose as much as it is about the benefits of living healthier on the inside as well as the outside.
Serving families has always been at the heart of the Y. We are a place where they can find respite from social, economic and educational challenges, and learn how to overcome them. We have a fundamental desire to provide opportunities for every family to build stronger bonds, achieve greater work/life balance, and become more engaged with their communities.
Family time at the Y is about giving families as a unit, and as individuals, the opportunities to deepen relationships, develop new skills and interests, improve their health and well-being, and connect to the community.
HEALTH, WELL-BEING & FITNESS
Because we know that healthy lifestyles are achieved through nurturing mind, body and spirit, well-being and fitness at the Y is so much more than just working out. Beyond fitness facilities, we provide educational programs to promote healthier decisions, and offer a variety of programs that support physical, intellectual and spiritual strength.
At the Y, a supportive community is a big part of wellness. At every age and every level of activity, you’ll find people just like you looking to live a little bit healthier. Members and program participants often cite the support and enthusiasm of fellow participants and staff as some of the key factors in their achievement of greater well-being. One member sums up her favorite class this way: “This is a great program, I’ve learned so much about how to eat healthier and I love the classes. I’m here 3 – 4 times a week now to work out and I love the new me!”
SPORTS & RECREATION
We believe sports, fun and exploring new interests aren’t just for the young. Along with improving health, whenever teamwork is involved, there’s the added benefit of being connected to others. That’s why you’ll find a range of recreational activities at the Y. With something to offer everyone, there’s no such thing as being too old to get in the game.
At the Y, sports and recreational activities are something special. Friendly competition (even with yourself), lots of variety and a supportive environment means team sports and recreation is fun again, and it makes for a healthier lifestyle and a good story or two.
Whether you’re new to the community or simply want to pursue a new hobby, the Y brings together people who love to learn. Whether you want to cook new dishes, join a bible study, create pottery or speak a new language—you’ll learn right alongside others from your community who share your interests.
At the Y, we believe healthy living has as much to do with pursuing interests, passions and learning new things as it does with eating healthy and being active. Our minds and spirits need stimulus and enrichment, and we get so much more from life when we find things—and people—that inspire us.
The generosity of others is at the core of the Y’s existence as a nonprofit. It is only through the support of our hundreds of thousands of volunteers and public and private donors that we are able to support and give back to the communities we engage.
To bring about meaningful change, individuals need ongoing encouragement and tools. We’re here day-in and day-out to provide the resources our communities need to address the most pressing social issues: child welfare, education, employment, housing and substance abuse. We work to make sure every child, family and community has what they need to achieve their best.
As a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y was created in response to social challenges and remains to this day a lifeline in communities around the world. The Y understands the challenges that keep individuals from reaching their full potential and responds with services and support which help people to be self-reliant, productive and connected to the community. Each Y responds to the unique issues influencing the community and provides support through services focused on critical areas, such as child welfare, community health, job training, environmental education, quality of life or family services. Below are a few examples of how the Y is providing support to millions of people nationwide.
At the Y, building a strong global community begins at home. Ys in the U.S. help young people develop cultural competencies, diverse populations connect to the community and individuals around the world gain access to life-changing resources and support. As an interconnected global network, the Y has the resources and solutions to build bridges and make our changing communities stronger—both at home and abroad.
Founded in 1844 in London, England, the Y has grown into one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world, serving more than 45 million people in 120 countries. Ys in the U.S. have played a key role in the growth and strength of the global organization and continue to partner with other Ys around the world to address critical social issues. Collectively, we use the knowledge and resources of our global network to help people reach their potential. From welcoming newcomers in the U.S. to working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, Ys have the expertise and commitment to strengthen communities and bring about positive change.
VOLUNTEERISM & GIVING
The generosity of others is at the core of our existence. It is only through the support of our hundreds of thousands of volunteers and public and private donors that we are able to give back to the communities we serve.
We are a powerful ally and advocate for our communities. Our experience and strong relationships in 10,000 neighborhoods across the nation mean that we are able to organize grassroots efforts and influence public policy around a range of social issues including child welfare, education and public health.
Through advocacy at the local, state and federal levels, the Y is bringing families safe and affordable child care and afterschool options; making healthy choices available in communities to help prevent chronic disease; and ensuring that Ys have the ability to be a resource for healthy living, youth development and social responsibility in the communities they serve. Lend Your Voice
The Y is a cause for strengthening community, working tirelessly to nurture the potential of kids, improve the nation’s health and well-being and give back and support our neighbors. When you advocate with the Y, you take an active role in bringing about meaningful, enduring change for your family, friends and community.
FOR POLICY MAKERS
In Washington D.C., our Government Relations and Policy office works with Congress and the administration to advocate for policies and programs that help Ys strengthen communities throughout the nation. Serving more than 20 million members – more than 9 million members under the age of 18 – there is a Y in every congressional district in the United States strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES INITIATIVES
At the Y, we work with community leaders to make the healthy choice the easy choice in all of the places where people live, work, learn and play.
Our Healthier Communities Initiatives are built on the concept that local communities can work together to give all community members healthy choices and support the pursuit of healthy lifestyles. More than 160 Ys are working in collaboration with community leaders to make changes in policies and the physical surroundings in those communities so that healthy living is within reach for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
CREATING A HEALTHIER ENVIRONMENT
Ys engaged in our Healthier Communities Initiatives (Pioneering Healthier Communities, Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities and ACHIEVE) are helping families put nutritious food on the table by bringing farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where healthy food options are scarce; giving parents peace of mind when they let their kids walk to school by creating safer routes; and keeping a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day. These examples are just the beginning.
PIONEERING HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC), which launched in 2004, is the signature initiative of Activate America that focuses on policy and environmental change in communities to promote healthy lifestyles. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and corporate and foundation donors, Y-USA has provided seed funding to 117 Ys across the country and their communities to take on this work. Learn more about how our approach has helped communities succeed in making healthy change.
STATEWIDE PIONEERING HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities builds on Y-USA’s PHC model to spread its learning and experience in community-level efforts, and develop these activities into statewide models for communities with some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the aim of this initiative is to address the childhood obesity epidemic through policy, systems and environmental changes that will have implications for communities, states and the nation. Communities in the following states are participating in Statewide PHC: Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.
ACTION COMMUNITIES FOR HEALTH, INNOVATION, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE (ACHIEVE)
Launched in 2008 to support local health departments and YMCAs in advancing community leadership in the nation’s efforts to prevent chronic diseases and related risk factors, ACHIEVE was inspired in part by the Y’s Pioneering Healthier Communities. ACHIEVE is designed to unite YMCAs, local and state health departments, parks and recreation departments and other community based organizations more formally in the fight against chronic disease. ACHIEVE is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is a partnership among the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Society for Public Health Education and Y-USA.
The ACHIEVE model capitalizes on the experience and expertise of national organizations in strengthening community leadership, building capacity, and activating change. Establishing partnerships with national organizations to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes is an efficient and effective mechanism for achieving chronic disease prevention and health promotion goals in communities.
Nurturing the potential of every child and teen
With so many demands on today’s families and the increased focus on early brain development, families need all the support they can get to nurture the potential of youth. That’s why child care and early learning programs at the Y focus on holistically nurturing child development by providing a safe and healthy place to learn foundational skills, develop healthy, trusting relationships and build self-reliance through the Y values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Children are like sponges – they watch and absorb knowledge, skills and values from everything and everyone around them. At the Y, we believe the values and skills learned early on are vital building blocks for quality of life and future success. That’s why our child care, after-school and Child Watch programs are staffed with people who understand the cognitive, physical and social development of kids, the need children have to feel connected and supported in trying new things, and the caring and reinforcement parents and families need to help each other. At the Y, babies develop trust and security, preschoolers experience early literacy and learn about their world, and school-age kids make friends, learn new skills and do homework. Most importantly, children learn how to be their best selves. That makes for confident kids today, and contributing and engaged adults tomorrow.
EDUCATION & LEADERSHIP
All kids have great potential. At the Y, a leading nonprofit strengthening community through youth development, we work every day to help them set and achieve their personal and educational goals. As a result, millions of children and teens nationwide gain confidence as they recognize the Y as a place where they belong and can feel comfortable exploring new interests and passions. Additionally, through our leadership and academic enrichment programs such as mentoring, Youth and Government and college preparation, the Y makes sure that every child has an opportunity to envision and pursue a positive future, and to take an active role in strengthening his or her community.
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.
Leaders Clubs help develop youth ages 12 to 18 as leaders while fostering a culture of service. With adult advisers, 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.
Youth and Government
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.
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.
Counselor in Training (CIT) and Leader in Training (LIT) Teen Leadership Programs at Camp
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.
College Goal Sunday
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.
SWIM, SPORTS & PLAY
The Y is the starting point for many youth to learn about becoming and staying active, and developing healthy habits they’ll carry with them throughout their lives. And the benefits are far greater than just physical health. Whether it’s gaining the confidence that comes from learning to swim or building the positive relationships that lead to good sportsmanship and teamwork, participating in sports at the Y is about building the whole child, from the inside out.
Swimming is a life skill as well as great exercise and a challenging sport. Ys offer swim lessons (for all ages), family swim, competitive swimming and diving teams, and many kinds of adaptive swim programs for kids with special needs, so we can all enjoy safely enjoy the pleasures of an aquatic environment.
Teen centers, group exercise, triathlon training, dance clubs, skateboarding, arts—there’s a lot more than sports at the Y, giving kids the chance to exert energy, try new things, make new friends … and be kids!
Baseball, soccer, volleyball, flag football, karate, basketball, gymnastics—check out the sports offerings at your Y and get in the game. Improve your skills, make new friends, be active with other kids and learn to love a sport at the Y.
Swimming, diving and gymnastics are the most popular national competitive sports leagues at the Y. The Y hosts state, regional and national championships annually, helping kids value hard work, reach for excellence and enjoy spirited competition.
Overnight, day or specialty camps at the Y share one thing: they’re about discovery. Kids have the opportunity to explore nature, find new talents, try new activities, gain independence, and make lasting friendships and memories. And, of course, it’s fun too.
Camping, like many Y programs, is about learning skills, developing character and making friends. But few environments are as special as camp, where kids become a community as they learn both how to be more independent and how to contribute to a group as they engage in physical, social and educational activities. Camping teaches self-reliance, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the development of attitudes and practices that build character and leadership—all amidst the fun of camp fires, bugle calls, canoeing, archery, talent shows, and meaningful relationships. Y counselors are dedicated to making sure camp is an amazing experience for every camper.
We have more than 130 years of experience in providing a safe, thriving environment for young people to explore personal interests, build self-esteem, develop interpersonal skills, discover the creativity and health benefits of the outdoors, and make lasting friendships and memories.
Y’s offer overnight camps that run from a few days to a few weeks in scenic outdoor areas that span from New Hampshire to Hawaii. Camp programs offer a wide variety of outdoor adventures led by trained and experienced leaders who guide children and teenagers in having an unforgettable experience. Expect new and fun activities that will add not only build skills but great new friends and character values for life.
Day camp can offer almost all of the benefits of traditional camp—new experiences, skill building, a sense of community and lasting friendships — in rural and urban settings while allowing campers to return home each afternoon. YMCAs across the nation offer day camps for elementary children and some have offerings for preschoolers and teens.
Camping is for everyone, and the Y offers specialty camps that focus on particular programming like teen adventure, music, sports specialties and farm/ranch experiences and for campers with special needs. Youth with developmental disabilities, physical and mental health challenges or other impairments that may require special attention or benefit from like-situated campers have opportunities through the Y.