National Forum Recap Scaling Up Guide Community Schools Blog Community Schools FAQs - Answers to your questions Coalition Publications - Inner Pages Use data to tell your community school story!

Partner Spotlight: YMCA

March 28, 2016

This month, we spoke to Elena Rocha of The YMCA. In February, they brought more than 350 YMCA to the capital for their National Advocacy Days to continue to cement in their legislative goals after ESSA has been passed. Learn more about their upcoming events, and how the Y's vision plays into shared philosophies with the community schools movement. 

1. Can you explain the overall mission of the YMCA of the USA? 
The goal of the YMCA is to strengthen community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. At the Y, we believe that when we work together with community members and partner organizations, we can help achieve lasting personal and social change. We believe that all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. That’s why the Y takes a holistic approach in developing the social, emotional, academic, and physical well-being of youth and cultivating the values, skills and relationships that lead to positive behaviors, better health and educational achievements.
2. What milestones has the Y already reached or is currently moving towards?

The Y has completed a three year pilot of four signature programs designed to help close achievement gaps, and we are now scaling nationally. These programs help kids achieve key educational milestones: being ready to learn for kindergarten, reading at grade level by the third grade, and being academically on track through middle school. More than 165 YMCAs are implementing these signature programs in over 350 sites in 48 states and DC and are meeting the social-emotional, academic, and physical development needs of more than 12,000 low-income youth annually. Results are strong. Through the Power Scholars Academy partnership with BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), participating K-8th grade scholars typically gain two months of literacy and three months of math skills after the six week summer program. 
3. How do Y principles tie into the Community School’s principles and philosophy? How do you see your work fitting into ours?

The Y takes a holistic approach to nurturing the development of youth and teens. During a child’s development into adulthood there are a number of critical milestones that lead to long-term success. While many children have family and community supports to help them meet these critical milestones, far too many children lack these supports and have unmet needs.  At the Y, we know that children succeed when they are supported body, mind and spirit. This is why more than 165 YMCAs around the country play a role in community school initiatives either as a school partner and service provider or as a lead agency responsible for the coordination, planning and implementation of a community school initiative. Focusing on the whole child can improve student learning and well-being, strengthen families, and make communities healthier. 
Y studies note correlations between our investments along the cradle to career continuum and achievement (kids gaining new knowledge, skills and abilities, and discovering who they are), belonging (kids feeling a sense of inclusion), and relationships (making new friends and developing good relationships with peers and adults). These critical drivers of impact serve as a basis for our commitment to improving the youth development journey for kids and the environments where children learn, play and live. 

4. You recently had your National Advocacy Days. What would you like to share with the field about them?

In February, we had 350 YMCA advocates in Washington, DC to advance the Y’s legislative priorities on Capitol Hill. These priorities include funding for 21st CCLC, the national Youth Mentoring Program, Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and programs for youth experiencing homelessness or in the foster care system; Child Nutrition reauthorization, renewal of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act; and passage of the Child Protection Improvements Act. This annual policy conference creates a platform for local Y CEOs, board members, and program directors; state alliance executive directors and policy chairs; and Youth and Government high school students to share their stories of impact, how Ys collaborate with partners, and the role that the Y plays in thousands of communities across the country. 
5. What are some exciting things coming up for the Y (i.e., events, publications)?

The YMCA will be hosting the 25th annual Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, April 30th, the Y’s national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids and families by focusing on physical and mental play. Across the country nearly 1.3 million participants will partake in games, healthy cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts and more.  
In June, the YMCA of the USA, along with our partner FSG, will be presenting at the Collective Impact Forum conference on building and assessing capacity for cradle to career collective impact. 
In late summer/early fall, the Wallace Foundation will be releasing a report based on partnerships for scaling up social innovations, an 18-month study that compares the approaches of 45 inter-organizational partnerships to spread social innovations in education, health and youth development to reach and benefit more people. The study focuses on the partnerships that enabled the scale up of each social innovation. Of the 45 innovations, four were selected to be presented as scale-up case studies, one of which is the Y.  The report will be available on the Wallace Foundation’s website. 
Recently, the Y launched a digital and activation campaign "Zoe for President" to highlight the Y’s ability to support individuals and communities from birth through retirement. Zoe represents the potential in all children to succeed if given opportunities and the campaign is a metaphor for the work the Y does to nurture that potential through programs that develop youth minds, future leaders and building stronger families. By supporting Zoe, people are supporting the idea that all children should have these opportunities.
6. Finally, what is the most exciting thing about working at the YMCA? 
The Y is for everyone! From early care and education to health and physical activity classes for seniors, the Y strives to meet the needs of the communities it serves. As an advocate for the YMCA’s youth development portfolio, it’s a rewarding experience to work directly with local Y CEOs and program staff and to hear about the innovative on-the-ground work taking place across the country and how it’s changing the lives of children and families. It’s also similarly rewarding to share these stories with national stakeholders and to advocate on behalf of the Y.


4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW  |  Suite 100  |  Washington, DC 20008-2304   |   Tel. 202.822.8405 X111  |  Fax 202.872.4050  |  Email
©2018 Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership. All Rights Reserved.
About Community Schools   |    Policy   |    Results   |    Resources   |    Your Leadership Role   |    Media   |    About Us   |    Search   |    National Forums   |    Privacy Policy   |    Site Map