There is no doubt that the Y is making a positive impact on children, youth and families in Texas every day. At the Y we try our best to provide resources needed by our community to address some of the most pressing social issues. From chronic disease prevention to water safety to academic readiness, the Y brings a wide range of ways to make our communities healthier and safer.
Representing 27 YMCA associations across the Lone Star State, the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs advocates on behalf of the health and well-being of the more than 1.3 million Texans we serve. As you may already know, through our Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) initiative, we are reversing the childhood obesity epidemic in our state. To continue to accomplish our goal of improving physical activity standards, we have been actively engaging local School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs). For instance, we started conducting school based Community Healthy Living Index (CHLI) assessment in selected independent school districts (ISDs). The school based CHLI assessment measures the current physical activity and nutrition standards of local school districts. The collected data will be used to identify and address gaps and opportunities to improve students’ health. Throughout this year, we will conduct more CHLI assessments with our partnering SHACs.
We understand that actively monitoring and engaging state and federal regulatory and legislative issues is the key to our success and advocacy is an integral part of the PHC. The Texas State Alliance of YMCAs has been actively educating decision-makers regarding their communities’ health and ways to improve it. We strive to equip decision-makers with the right information to support healthy communities. In February, Texas YMCA leaders visited Washington D.C. for the 2014 YMCA National Advocacy Day to inform members of Congress about our services to communities and our commitment to make our state healthier. On the state level, our advocacy team has continued to have meetings with state legislators and their staff in the interim to share our PHC efforts and build positive relationships. However, we want more Texans to join our efforts to engage decision-makers and advocate for healthy living. In the coming months, we will be encouraging Texans to join our Movement to make our communities healthier and become advocates to protect our children from the childhood obesity epidemic by signing up for our Facebook page and online action alerts.
When you advocate, volunteer or donate to the Y, your help will have a meaningful, enduring impact right in your own neighborhood. Be the change, lead the change and get involved. I encourage you to join in our YMCA Movement. I guarantee you will see positive changes in yourself, in the lives of others and in the world around you.
James P. Finck, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
Austin, TX - On January 31, more than 1,000 high school students from all over the state gathered at the State Capitol for the 67th Annual YMCA Texas Youth & Government State Conference. These young leaders formed a mock state government and competed against each other in sections such as judicial trial court, appeals, legislative, media and Model UN. As usual, the YMCA Youth & Government State Conference was a great way to show that there is so much more to the Y. As a cause-driven organization, we believe that teaching our kids about civic engagement and leadership is as important as keeping them safe and healthy. Hundreds of volunteers and Y staff also attended the conference as guides and judges for the competition. This annual conference was made possible by support of other organizations and in-kind donations including the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation which awarded $150,000 to the YMCA Youth & Government program. This gift provided direct support to the program as well as turned into scholarships for students to travel to Austin.
To show our appreciation to the volunteers and donors as well as to encourage community leaders to get involved with the YMCA Youth & Government program, the YMCA of Austin hosted the 3rd Annual Texas YMCA Youth & Government VIP Luncheon. Local and state elected officials as well as superintendents of local school districts were present as Ross Ramsey, co-editor of the Texas Tribune, presented the keynote address. In fact, Rep. Larry Gonzales, Rep. Jason Isaac, Rep. Paul Workman, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and staff of Rep. Four Price, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Rep. Craig Goldman and Rep. Chris Turner attended the luncheon. Also, Zaverie Harris, this year’s elected Youth & Government State Governor from the Dallas Y delegation, shared his life-changing experience as a participant and thanked everyone for supporting the YMCA Youth & Government program.
To learn more about ways to support or volunteer for the future leaders of the state, please visit the YMCA Texas Youth & Government website.
Washington, D.C. - The Y is a powerful ally and advocate that can move people and communities forward. In late February, Texas YMCA representatives from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston visited several Congressional leaders in Washington D.C. to advance the Y’s causes and make our voices heard. This year’s legislative priorities were crafted around our three areas of focus: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. Y leaders from all across the nation gathered for our largest annual advocacy event. The Y-USA also presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Congressman John Lewis (GA-5), a longstanding supporter for access to affordable, quality early childhood education program. YMCA leaders also learned about the current environment on Capitol Hill and the Y’s Legislative agenda for the year.
We are very thankful for the following members of Congress and their staff for making our 2014 YMCA National Advocacy Day visits a success:
2014 YMCA National Legislative Priorities:
1. INVEST IN THE NATION’S YOUTH BY SUPPORTING EARLY LEARNING, AFTERSCHOOL AND SUMMER LEARNING
2. CONTROL CHRONIC DISEASE AND HEALTH CARE SPENDING BY PREVENTING OBESITY, DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE
3. PRESERVE THE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION TAX DEDUCTION
A full listing of the Y-USA’s legislative priorities can be accessed on the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs website.
Through our partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs awarded five $10,000 grants to local Ys to work on improving physical activity standards in their communities. Some of their initiatives will include working with local School Health Advisory Councils to purchase equipment for playgrounds, covering the cost to train Y staff and ISD health staff on Texas Education Agency approved CATCH curriculum for afterschool programs and providing scholarships for Y memberships to hundreds of families in need.
Congratulations to the winners!
YMCA of Austin: Hays Communities branch (Buda, TX)
YMCA of Greater El Paso & Rio Grande Valley
YMCA of the Golden Crescent (Victoria, TX)
YMCA of Kerr County (Kerrville, TX)
YMCA of Greater San Antonio
Houston, TX - Working with community partners to create access to healthy living is how we strengthen community at the Y. CHLI (Community Healthy Living Index) is a tool developed by the YMCA with health professionals from universities and policymakers. The assessment provides a snapshot of what’s happening in places where people live, work, learn and play. This spring, through our Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative the Texas State Alliance of YMCAs will work local School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs) in various independent school districts (ISDs) to conduct school based CHLI assessments beginning with the Alief ISD in the Greater Houston area.
The school based CHLI assessment will supplement the community based CHLI assessment conducted by our partner, Healthy Living Matters (HLM). Last year, we committed to working with SHACs by collectively implementing HB 1018. Through that commitment we are constantly becoming more actively engaged with school districts and our community. In 2012 and 2013, HLM and the YMCA of Greater Houston held CHLI conversations at 16 sites across Harris County to assess the availability of healthy food and activity options. Following the CHLI conversations, improvement plans were developed for 8 neighborhoods and 8 after school programs to increase availability of healthy options for children. This year, all 16 sites will be awarded seed funds from HLM to support implementation of the improvement plans and/or prioritized policies from the larger HLM Community Action Plan (From HLM Newsletter Issue XIX).
Together, we have the power to produce healthy environments. It’s a fact that youth spend majority of their time in a school setting followed by afterschool care at organizations such as the Y. By conducting CHLI assessments, ISDs will be able to identify gaps and reach out to their local Y to help bridge those disparities in resources. The return on engagement for the Y is that we help strengthen community, live out our mission and stay committed to our Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards.
We will share our data with key leaders in the summer.
Port Arthur, TX - A recent study published by the CDC reports that only one in four teenage boys were getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. For those active teenagers, basketball was the most common activity to stay healthy. Teaching and encouraging teens to play basketball can lower the obesity rate. The YMCA of Southeast Texas is on board with this idea and decided to provide free lessons with a very special local partner; Lamar State College-Port Arthur.
Every day at the Y, pickup games are played and kids learn to enjoy the sports. The idea to teach kids basketball is longstanding at the Y. In 1891, while teaching at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, MA, James Naismith invented the game of Basketball. Ever since, the Y played a major role in spreading basketball around the world and it still continues. Players and coaches from Lamar State College-Port Arthur’s Seahawks were very excited to teach the basics of basketball at the YMCA of Southeast Texas. Children ages three to 13 received lessons at two free basketball clinics. This is the Y’s second year working with the Seahawks and its Head Coach, Lance Madison. In addition to learning the fundamentals of basketball, dribbling, passing and shooting; Coach Madison emphasizes good sportsmanship, how to be a good teammate, how to share the ball and how to work well with others. These skills learned at the clinic could also be used by students in school. After all, teaching basketball helped kids to understand the importance of physical activity as well as to develop social skills.
Visit the YMCA of Southeast Texas for more information.
Buda, TX - Each year Y-USA hosts its Leadership Symposium. The Leadership Symposium is a Y-USA partnership with Washington University in St. Louis. This year’s theme is “improving the nation’s health” which aligns perfectly with our Pioneering Healthier Communities initiatives. Forty of the YMCA leaders from across the nation were selected to embark on this most challenging and rewarding career-development experiences. The Symposium will feature four distinguished and nationally renowned scholars such as 17th Surgeon General of the United State, Richard Carmona. Two of the Y leaders in the Movement were selected from Austin, TX; Gary Davis, Associate Branch Executive at Hays Communities YMCA, and Ar’Sheill Sinclair, SPHC Program Manager. Successful Leadership Symposium participants will be charged with researching and writing original white papers on a topic of “improving the nation’s health.” Some of the best papers will be published in the Y’s new Journal of Community Strengthening.
Here’s a short interview with Gary:
1. Could you tell me more about the Hays Communities Y and how your Y is improving local community’s health?
The Hays Y makes an impact on our community’s health through many different programs. The y has programs such as: youth sports, adult sports, group exercise, swim lessons, opens swim, personal training, and many more. We have programs for members under doctor’s care, such as: diabetes prevention, LIVESTRONG at the Y, and RX for Healthy Living. This year we are trying to move out of the Y, and we aim to serve more of our community who are not able to get to the Y. The Hays branch is the only branch in Hays County, which is 680 sq. miles. We can’t do it all from the branch so we truly have to become a Y without walls.
2. Why did you apply for the Leadership Symposium (LS)?
After I received the nomination I had to research what I was nominated for. After I looked into the Leadership Symposium, I saw the area it will cover could greatly affect the health of the nation for future generation. To be a part of a team that could make such an impact was something I wanted to be a part of. As a lifelong learner it would put me in the position to learn from great minds, and it would allow me to educate others when I returned to our association. Our time on this planet is short. If I am able to make and impact I would be foolish to turn the opportunity down.
3. What do you want to accomplish by attending the LS?
Very simple, I wish to learn and use the knowledge to the betterment of our nation. The Y can set standards that the nation will follow. We can look into areas where change is needed, and we can reach many individuals and families across the nation through our programs.
4. Could you briefly talk about your ideas on improving the nation’s health?
Where I see the need for change is illness prevention. There are programs for pre and post diabetes, cancer survivors, and childhood obesity, but we need to reach the community before illness becomes a problem. The Y as a whole needs to develop more programs that reach the youth of today. We need to get out to our mission areas, and we need to reach the children and families in low income areas. These are areas have high levels of obesity and have a lack of programs for children to be active. Many of the illnesses that are becoming pandemic can be reduced for future generations by setting the youth of today into life full of healthy eating habits and exercise.
YMCA of Greater Williamson County Opens the New Hutto Family YMCA through Partnership with the City of Hutto
Hutto, TX - One of the core values the Y teaches during our youth sports programs is the importance of teamwork. The Y believes that through partnerships even difficult goals can be achieved. The new Hutto Family YMCA is a great example of how teamwork works. In Hutto, TX, the YMCA of Greater Williamson County partnered with the City of Hutto to build the new state-of-the-art facility which was made possible by $5 million municipal bond in 2009. The facility also includes an office for Seton Healthcare (another partner) who will operate a heated therapy pool on the premises. The City of Hutto and the YMCA of Greater Williamson County officially broke ground for the new Hutto Family YMCA last March. Since its grand opening on February 9, 2014, the new Y has welcomed approximately 600 members from the community and counting. During the grand opening, Mayor Debbie Holland told the attendees that the city is committed to promoting health and the new Y will further enhance the quality of life in Hutto. Like all Ys in Texas, the Hutto Family YMCA is open to everyone and has something for all ages to enjoy.
For more information, please visit the YMCA of Greater Williamson County website.
Waco, TX - During the 83rd Texas Legislative Session Representatives Richard Peña Raymond (TX-42) and Carol Alvarado (TX- 145) coauthored House Bill 749. House Bill 749 calls for a plan to increase outcomes in the summer food service program for Texas youth that qualify for free and/or reduced lunch. In Texas, 2.4 million children qualify for free and/or reduced lunch programs yet during the summer months many kids go hungry since only 11% participate in the Summer Meals program. There’s a huge opportunity to work with decision makers like Representatives Raymond and Alvarado and other community partners to examine innovative ways that make sure that all children are eating during the summer months.
This summer, the YMCA of Central Texas in Waco has connected with CitySquare and the Waco ISD to provide summer meals at the YMCA’s Waco Family and Doris Miller branches. CitySquare is a Dallas based nonprofit that has served 9,600 free summer meals daily to kids in in Dallas, Houston and Austin. In the coming weeks, CitySquare will expand its outreach to the Waco community. The Y is working to tie our advocacy efforts into community action as we embark on new partnerships that help to end childhood hunger and promote healthy living in the communities that we serve. Through the partnership with CitySquare, the YMCA of Central Texas will provide a nutritionally complete summer meal built around fun enrichment and educational activities.
Research indicates that children who participate in school lunch/ summer meal program diets are rich in nutrients as opposed to their counterparts who do not participate. The YMCA’s summer food program will help children stay well-nourished, active and energized all summer long, as well as provide some important relief to family food budgets. At the Y we support programs that are designed to help meet the needs of children outside of school hours who might otherwise be at risk of going hungry. More than 300 Ys nationwide will offer summer food programs and aim to serve 5 million healthy meals and snacks to 100,000 kids.
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