For Youth Development

Happy April. Looking forward to nicer weather.

The mission of the YMCA is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. This mission statement has guided me and my career for over 30 years working for this great organization.

Our vision for the community is that the Y is here to build stronger communities. We want to make our community the place to be. We want to break down barriers. We want to lift up our youth and seniors. We want so much for the Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo communities that it sometimes makes my head hurt thinking about all that we need to do.

One of the areas of focus for the organization is around Youth Development. Stay with me here, if we focus on youth development, it makes the community stronger (our vision), and that makes people stronger in spirit, mind, and body (our mission). They are all related.

Now, most people think that we take care of this youth development thing through typical YMCA programs. Youth are developed through taking a swimming lesson because they learn to swim. Youth are developed because they learned how to bounce a basketball in the gym. Youth are developed by being in our child care. These are all true, but it is so much more than that.

Youth Development is about making sure that the youth of our community receive the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical support to be all that they can be. Youth that we serve and develop will be loved, spiritually grounded, educated, competent, and healthy. That is so much more than bouncing a ball!

Each day I get to see these things happen when our staff are engaged with our youth. It happens outside my doorway when child care children are walking in from one of our offsite locations to take swimming lessons. You see it on their faces as they whisper, giggle, and wave because they have been taught respect about how we act while in a new space. Respecting our friends and neighbors is a key component of what we do. That’s Youth Development.

I get to see this in action as I watch youth sports and basketball games. We have a belief that “everyone plays, everyone wins” at the Y. I also know that kids and parents are keeping score whether we have a scoreboard out or not. Learning how to play, win and lose gracefully, be part of a team, and caring about your opponent are taught on our courts. That’s Youth Development.

And an area that is near and dear to my heart is around the pool and watching swimming lessons and swim team. Think about the life accomplishment for a child when they learn to swim. Even learning to do a back float. The celebration moments that come out of a lesson are huge. When it happens with the instructor as they high five the child, with smiles all around, I think I might see “love” being practiced. That’s Youth Development.

Our staff are the experts to make our vision and mission come alive. Our facilities are a tool in the belt to make our mission come alive. Our Y is here to make sure that we develop youth!

We will continue to make the community stronger.

See you at the Y!

Steve Smith, President