On Sunday, August 12th, YMCAs throughout the world will be observing International Youth Day. It was created by the UN General Assembly in 1999 to serve as an annual celebration of the role young people play as essential partners in change. This year’s theme is “Safe Spaces for Youth.”
Safe Spaces for Youth
While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth so they don’t feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community. With holistic support in these safe spaces, children and teens can develop the skills they need to be successful in life.
So where does the Y come in?
Here at the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, every branch is a certified Safe Place. We take pride in offering an array of youth programs that create safe spaces for youth to grow socially, cognitively and physically, no matter their background. We want to help youth realize their ability to be active, thriving and contributing members of society.
Youth sports staff, coaches and volunteers share our vision of helping all youth learn the fundamentals of sports, develop skills and reach their full potential in a safe space where they feel a sense of belonging.
Learn & Play Centers
Our Learn & Play Centers create opportunities for children to interact with others, build relationships with caring staff and work on developmental skills.
The YMCA invented the concept of group swim lessons more than 100 years ago. Once children and teens learn how to swim, our branch pools can be a safe space for youth to hang out, have fun and get some exercise, too!
Day camp programs give youths the opportunity to learn new skills, make new friends and have the time of their lives. Our full-day programs are ACA accredited and focus on achievement, belonging and developing relationships.
What about teens?
We have a low-cost Youth Membership option for teens whose families don’t have a Y membership. With a youth membership, teens can use each branch for anything from swimming to basketball to racquetball.
Some of our branches have teen-focused programming as well! The John R. Grubb YMCA has a Teen Center that runs a program called G.R.I.T. (Grubb Role models In Training). This program creates a safe space for teens to participate in structured, supervised activities and success groups.
Youth development is an area of focus for the Y because it is vital to our cause of strengthening the foundations of community. We want to nurture our youth along their journey to adulthood in safe spaces where they have a place to belong and grow.
How have you experienced safety and belonging at a Y? Share your story with us!