Summer is one of the best times of the year. For Ys across Texas, we remain busy advancing our Mission and driving causes within our three focus areas, especially youth development. Many of you put your trust in YMCAs in Texas when you enroll your children in our afterschool and summer camps. In return, we promise that your kiddos will have fond, lasting memories as well as experience quality programming in environments that support healthy living. In 2011, Ys across the nation committed to implementing the guidelines of the National Institute of Out-of-School Time healthy eating and physical activity standards (HEPA). We know that in order to keep kids at a healthy weight you have to keep them moving, so Ys are committed to making sure your little one gets at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. We also work to develop their brains through our efforts such as Summer Learning Loss Prevention; a program aimed at reducing learning lapse during the summer months in low income households. That’s how we build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
Ys within the Lone Star state strengthen communities day in and day out. For example, our YMCAs in Fort Worth are teaching kids swim lessons which are valuable life skills. In fact, in 2013, Ys across Texas provided over 70,000 swim lessons to youth under the age of twelve. Texas is ranked 2nd in the number of drownings nationally and drowning is the leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children ages one to four in our state. It’s our responsibility to keep kids safe through education and outreach. To do that we go into the community where the people are like apartment complexes, schools or any place with a pool. Our partnerships across the state will help us continue to provide instructions in aquatic safety and drowning prevention. It’s how we deliver our cause, it’s how we strengthen community, and it’s how we engage our 1.3 million members!
Lastly, this summer we are pleased to announce a new slate of leaders that will serve Ys across the state in the role of CEO. We’re looking forward to fresh ideas that will strengthen our cause and help the Texas State Alliance move forward with our Movement. Community is our focus and we want to continue to build the foundation for the people we serve through our memberships, programs and partnerships. Here are some cool happenings at your local Ys.
James P. Finck, Chair
Texas State Alliance of YMCAs
My name is Christopher and this is My Y Story. My children have been coming to the Y for a little over three years. As a single parent, childcare is very important. A daycare has to be dependable, trustworthy, affordable and a good environment for children. When my children first started at the YMCA of Abilene, I was struggling to keep the bills paid and put food on the table. I signed up for the scholarship program because I was in desperate need of help. When I was accepted, it was such a blessing for my family. Without that scholarship I wouldn’t be able to keep my kids in after-school and summer programs. I would like to thank the Y from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done for my family.
My name is Larnesha and I have enrolled my daughter in the Tyler YMCA Summer Day Camp for the past two years. I’m so thankful that this program is available. I’m a single parent and am so blessed that the program fees go by the household income. It is so convenient for us working parents that maybe can’t afford a summer vacation. The weekly field trips that are included in the fee are awesome. We as parents don’t have to worry about providing breakfast, lunch or a snack, the Y handles everything. The staff works very hard and are hands on and I love that. I want to let everyone in the community know how much this program is benefiting my family.
Republican and Democrat legislators from the Texas House of Representatives and Senate have united to form the YMCA Legislative Caucus, the first of its kind in Texas and only the second in the United States. Chaired by Senator Larry Taylor (R- Friendswood) and Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), the Caucus is a bipartisan and bicameral effort to keep core YMCA issues of Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility at the top of the public agenda.
“The YMCA has been dedicated to the health and wellness of the people in Texas for over 160 years and has a rich history of service to its constituency of over 1.4 million Texans,” said Rep. Rodriguez. “Collectively, Texas YMCAs, large and small, rural and urban, are working together to strengthen the foundations of communities throughout the Lone Star State.”
Caucus members will support YMCAs as effective partners, resources and advocates in the holistic development of children, youth and family strengthening programs. Members will serve as a conduit for information on the 27 YMCA associations serving communities across the state. During its inaugural biennium, the Caucus will highlight the YMCA's healthy living initiatives, including reducing childhood obesity and chronic disease prevention. Visit www.texasymcas.org for a full list of current caucus members.
Transformational and growth are perfect words to describe the 2014-2015 season of Youth & Government in San Antonio. Revitalized after a ten year absence, Y&G ended the school year with 48 youth who participated and competed in various sections in the competition. Four campuses represented San Antonio at the Junior Youth & Government and High School Youth & Government State Conferences. In back-to-back years, John F. Kennedy High School has been the only judicial team in San Antonio to advance to the National Judicial Conference. Our volunteers generously commit many hours a week mentoring our young advocates, ultimately serving as role models that set high standards of achievement.
This month the YMCA of Austin, in partnership with March of Dimes, will launch “Becoming a Mom/Comenzando bien©,” a free, prenatal health and fitness program for expectant mothers from low-income households. This investment is an effort to aid underserved women by providing instruction on safe fitness practices and guidance on behavioral health changes.
Through a generous grant partnership with March of Dimes, the YMCA of Austin will offer “Becoming a Mom/Comenzando bien©” in conjunction with another YMCA-developed fitness pilot this summer. The program will be offered at the North Austin and East Communities YMCA; locations that serve significant numbers of low-income residents.
“At the YMCA, we strive to help individuals in every walk of life reach optimal health,” says Lauren Milius, Health & Wellness Director at the East Communities YMCA. “This grant will allow us to reach expectant mothers in ways that we never have before. By helping mothers to adopt healthier habits before their babies are even born, we hope to help their children live healthier lives from the start. We’re very excited to help March of Dimes expand the Becoming a Mom program in Central Texas.”
“Becoming a Mom/Comenzando bien©” is a March of Dimes prenatal education program designed for pregnant women. Through a 9-week session, instructors will teach expectant mothers how to prepare for birth, create a birth plan, and what to expect both during and after pregnancy. Participants have the opportunity to connect and share with other pregnant women in a supportive, private setting. Classes at the YMCA of Austin will also educate pregnant women on how to exercise safely during pregnancy, and will include light exercise and meditation.
For more information about the program, contact Lauren Milius at (512) 933-9622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the third summer, the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth is collaborating with Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition to offer low to no-cost drowning prevention classes for children and families. The Westside YMCA and E. R. Van Zandt Southwest YMCAs will host classes this summer for the volunteer-driven organization. As a founding member of the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition, the YMCA has offered its pools each year for this vital initiative, which teaches non-swimmers to be safer in the water, and has transitioned many of the youth into YMCA swim lessons after the class, provided through grant funding.
Texas often leads the nation in pool and spa drownings and Tarrant County has consistently ranked in the top five counties for pediatric drownings in Texas. In 2012, the Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition was formed to stem the tide of drownings with the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth as a founding member.
YMCA of Greater El Paso TX & Rio Grande Valley Reduces Underage Drinking through Policy and Environmental Change
Shift+ (pronounced “Shift Positive”) is the Alcohol Prevention initiative of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. The goals of the initiative are to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking. The YMCA of Greater of El Paso serves as the backbone agency for the initiative and supports a diverse group of stakeholders who have aligned their regional alcohol prevention efforts.
The Paso del Norte region includes Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; El Paso County, TX; and Luna County, Dona Ana County, and Otero County in Southern New Mexico. The YMCA of Greater El Paso coordinates alcohol policy efforts in El Paso and neighboring New Mexico counties, and collaborates with colleagues in Ciudad Juárez to ensure partnerships rather than being constrained by county/state/country borders. The science is clear that to reduce underage and binge drinking, you have to first understand what youth are drinking, how it is being marketed to them, how cheap and readily available it is, and where the problem drinking is happening. Once communities understand their particular risk factors, they can implement evidence-based strategies that respond to those risk factors.
As part of a 14-month advocacy training program, staff have been collecting data to better understand local risk factors. Consistent with state and national data, in El Paso and Southern New Mexico research indicates that most drinking among young people occurs in other people’s homes, often at large “house parties” where binge drinking is common. In response, many communities are adopting local, civil “Social Host” laws to hold parents accountable for underage and high-risk drinking that happens in their homes. Advocates in the community work with law enforcement, public health departments, faith-based organizations and local and state coalitions to learn more about these laws and how they can help keep youth and communities safer and healthier.
Want to know more about how the YMCA of Greater El Paso is working on changing the context to reduce underage and binge drinking? Click here for a recent update from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation on the Shift+ Initiative!
For more information on the advocacy training program, contact Holly Mata at the YMCA of Greater El Paso at 915-532-9622 or email@example.com
The YMCA of the Golden Crescent has partnered with the Challenge Athletes Dream Complex to develop adaptive sports in Southeast Texas. The Y has been in talks with the Victoria Independent School District on ways to introduce adaptive sports to their students. In the process of scheduling an adaptive sports clinic featuring wheelchair basketball, wheelchair softball and sitting volleyball, Chris Seilkop, YMCA of the Golden Crescent CEO was introduced to Danny Camacho.
Camacho organized the Bad News Chairs wheelchair softball team, and after getting the support of Seilkop and the YMCA, the team has been practicing weekly at the Challenged Athletes Dream Complex in Victoria.
The joy and enthusiasm the team members have expressed to Camacho has been unmistakable. Getting the opportunity to be active and part of a team has been an extremely positive experience for those involved.
“We are very fortunate,” Camacho said. “We are getting so enthused about making this a permanent thing in Victoria.”
What’s next for the Bad News Chairs? Just a few months after Camacho put his dream in motion, the Bad News Chairs will host their own wheelchair softball tournament on July 18 at Victoria’s Challenged Athletes Dream Complex, with teams from Houston scheduled to attend.
A group of young school aged children bounced, danced, sang and even tried their skills at break dancing during a mid-morning, get-your-body-pumping exercise at the YMCA of Southeast Texas, Port Arthur Branch. The excited Summer Day Camp kids faced their instructors during their romp while Counselors In Training — youth between the ages of 13 to 15, lined the wall watching how their counterparts and the children interacted. Later, they joined in on the fun. Dreylon Sampson has been a Y kid since the age of four. Now at the age of 14 he’s a Counselor In Training. “After the first week of summer it got boring so I came here,” Sampson said adding that he takes part in many activities such as sports and swimming, working with the youth and meeting new people. Lindsey Rossi, child care director, has known Sampson for four years and enjoys working with him. The CIT program allows for the student to follow, or shadow, counselors and teaches them how to be a counselor. “They learn team building skills, how to interact with the kids and self-confidence when talking to younger, and older, kids,” Rossi said. Rossi said candidates for CIT go through a three week evaluation before entering the program. “This keeps kids active. A lot of kids stay on the game system at home. This keeps them busy and active,” she said. “The program requires the candidate complete 20 hours and they have a time card like the adults. After the program is completed the hours can go on a resume or transcript because its community service.” Sampson is currently shadowing Alisha Armstead and working with a group of five year olds. “The kids start off with morning circle then a couple of dances to get them pumped up then activities and snacks,” Sampson said describing a typical day. “We do activities like basketball, swimming, game room, racquetball room and made-up games.” The Summer Day Camp is for 11 weeks and ends on August 21st. The counselor training program will likely help Sampson as he grows into adulthood. He already has plans for the future — to be in the NBA. If that doesn’t work out he plans to go into business and real estate, he said. Dreylon Sampson is the son of Delina Jones and Vincent Sampson.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas is trying to teach more children how to swim through its Make a Splash program. Now in its sixth year, the program has partnered with 150 apartment communities across Dallas and Collin counties to offer kids free lessons and a peace of mind for parents.
“We teach them to go under water and open their eyes and most importantly, we teach them to jump into deep water and push off the bottom and reach for the wall,” said Jennifer Pewitt, the YMCA’s Associate Vice President of Aquatics. “Drowning is a silent and it takes as little as twenty seconds for your child to be on the bottom of the pool and if you’re not a swimmer, at that point, what do you do?”
Alicia Quiterio has two children in the program. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter have been to several sessions. Alicia can’t swim, but she’s determined to teach her kids.
“It’s more important that my children have to know,” she said. “They want to learn how to swim.”
And without the YMCA’s program, Quiterio admits she couldn’t afford lessons.
“They are too expensive. We don’t have too much money,” she said.
Click here for more information on the Make a Splash program.