YMCA Works in Youth Development

Written by Theresa Lubke, Executive Director

What I see each day at our Y often triggers me to reflect on my own Y experience as a child and teen. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the profound influence the Y was having on me. It was only after leaving home and attending college in a town where there was no Y that I realized the power of the Y’s influence.

At our Y, I often see elementary school age children running from their car into the building. I remember running up the steps of the Y in Mankato (Minnesota) excited for a Friday evening of activities. These Friday nights were part of the Mankato YMCA’s Big Brother / Big Sister program. I was a Little Sister. My Big Sister was an important adult role model for me. At the Y in Marion, we are partnering with Marion City Schools, Nucor Steel, the Boys & Girls Club, the United Way and many faith communities to provide mentors for students at Marion City Schools. Mentors spend approximately thirty minutes each week with their mentee. Some mentors meet with younger children on literacy skills, while others meet with middle school students to build a trusted adult relationship.

Over the last several summers, our Y Day Camp has grown. I attended my first Y Day Camp when I was 9 years old. I was hooked. I spent nearly every summer as a camper and then counselor until I moved on to working at a Y resident camp. I remember when my hometown day camp had a large number of campers who had recently arrived in the United States from Cambodia (it was the late 70s). I remember how gratifying it was to watch these young children go from being shy and scared, to enjoying the many camp activities. As they experienced achievement and belonging, their self-confidence grew. At the Marion Family YMCA, we too welcome everyone; and we practice the same strategies of purposeful activities that help children experience achievement and belonging.
Throughout high school, in addition to working at my local Y, I was also involved in Y Youth in Government. I served in various roles in Minnesota’s mock youth legislature including page, President Pro Temp of the Senate, and a committee chair. I learned to public speak and to work with people from diverse backgrounds. Today in Marion, we have students from several of our high schools who participate in the Ohio YMCA Youth in Government program. These young people are developing leadership and civic engagement skills. They are also experiencing the importance of working with people from other communities, other backgrounds and other points of view.

Every day at the Marion Family YMCA, I see children experience achievement, adults improve their well-being, teens grow in maturity, and people from all walks of life enjoy each other. For more information on becoming part of the Marion Family YMCA, please call us at 740-725-9622, visit our website at marionymca.org, or stop in at 645 Barks Road East in Marion.

About Marion Family YMCA

Founded in 1892, the Marion Family YMCA strives to enrich kids, adults, families and communities through well-being and fitness, camps, family time, swim, sports, and play, and other activities for people of all ages, incomes and abilities. The YMCA's column on Marion Online is written by a variety of staff members and volunteers. You can learn more by calling 740-725-9622, or visit www.marionymca.org.