From its inception 175 years ago, the YMCA has focused on nurturing the potential of young people and helping them grow stronger in spirit, mind and body. Programs like Y Leaders Clubs at the Wellmark and Walnut Creek YMCAs provide opportunities for teens to learn new skills and build positive relationships while giving back to the community.
Recently, the two clubs joined forces to plan, prepare and serve a meal to residents at the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus. The teens completed the volunteer application process – experience that will come in handy for filling out job and college applications – and took a tour of the facility, which is home to 140 men and women who were formerly homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Working together, they assigned tasks and determined the most efficient way to prepare and serve a delicious meal of pizza, parfaits and fruit for the residents. The teens also had a chance to eat with the residents and help make Christmas cards.
Jazz Abreu, Youth Development Director at Wellmark Y, said it was heartwarming to watch the teens accept new responsibilities and make connections with others. “It was a very humbling experience for the teens to help out the residents and understand their situations,” he said. “They learned how the Y gives them and others the opportunity for personal growth, which helps create a stronger community.”
Abreu and Kourtlin Jackson, Youth Development Director at Walnut Creek Y, are working to recruit more teens to join Y Leaders and planning additional opportunities for the clubs to collaborate on projects. “Each of our Y Leaders set individual goals at the start of the program,” Jackson said. “We’re looking forward to watching them achieve those goals while gaining valuable experience they can use in the future.”