The core of YMCA of Greenville’s Youth Development pillar is our mission to help shape the future leaders of America. We know we must invest in our children today by empowering them, nurturing them, and by providing opportunities to engage with responsible, positive role models.
YMCA of Greenville bases its developmental childcare programs like afterschool, day camp and youth sports, as well as its teen services, on The Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets Framework. The framework encompasses a set of skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults.
From this framework, we’ve learned that children and teens not only need positive family support to thrive, but they also need at least three positive adult relationships outside of their families. There is a spiritual, mental, and physical growth that occurs when children have a strong role model in an afterschool program teacher, day camp counselor, or through a coach who mentors them. The more Developmental Assets young people acquire, the better their chances of succeeding in school and becoming healthy contributing members of society.
Dikembe Mutombo, the Congolese-American retired NBA player embodies the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish. “God put us here to prepare this place for the next generation. That’s our job. Raising children and helping the community, that’s preparing for the next generation.”
Here are a few stories from this summer that exemplify this spirit:
- 21 teenagers participated in South Carolina’s first service week experience called Y Corps, traveling across the state and in North Carolina. These young leaders and their chaperones contributed over 650 volunteer hours on projects ranging from helping to repair homes in Columbia that were damaged during the 2015 floods, cleaning debris and litter from marshes of the Cooper River in Charleston, to taking care of animals at a shelter on the Outer Banks, refurbishing bikes for children in need in Wilmington, and sorting, salvaging and repackaging over 5,200 pounds of donated food for a food bank in Winston-Salem. The teens in the program felt valued and had a sense of purpose, developed interpersonal and cultural competencies by interacting with people of all walks of life, and were exposed to many positive role models along the way.
- About 30 children who live in a public housing complex in Travelers Rest participated in our Safety Around Water program, learning a new, potentially life-saving skill, taught by our aquatics directors. While learning respect for the water, these children, several of whom are being raised by single moms, were encouraged, challenged and given boundaries by positive male role models.
- At GHS Family Y, a young girl adopted from China at nine years old, attended summer day camp. She was developmentally delayed and did not have much social or adult interaction before being adopted. According to her mom, the girl had an “I can’t” attitude. She asked that her day camp counselors encourage her and require that she participate in the activities because she would not do so on her own. After a month of day camp, her mom told our staff that she had seen a big change in her behavior. Because of the positive reinforcement she received from her camp counselors, she now hugs everyone. Before camp, she wouldn't speak to anyone.
- Almost 1,400 children experienced what we call the “magic on the mountain” during their week’s stay at Camp Greenville. Of those, 75 received scholarships through the $56,629 raised for our Annual Campaign. One story involves four siblings who were provided scholarships to attend camp. Over the course of the week, these children discovered they were capable of doing things they didn’t think they could through the encouragement of their counselors and friends. The joy they experienced created memories to last a lifetime. You can see their story here.
It is everyone’s responsibility to help the children in Greenville County grow into healthy, happy, and contributing adults. We encourage you to get involved by coaching a team, volunteering through the Togetherhood initiative or by supporting our scholarship program so that every child who wants to be involved has the opportunity to do so.
In spirit, mind, and body,