2016 was a historic year for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, making great strides towards our 2020 vision to better serve 300,000 people in King and south Snohomish counites. The completion of the Sammamish Community Y, in partnership with the City of Sammamish, and the expansion of the West Seattle Y grew our collective reach to more than 250,000 people. Of those 250,000 people, nearly 35 percent received financial assistance and scholarships, made possible through philanthropic gifts and grants, to ensure income is never a barrier to feel welcome at the Y.
Together, we are making a significant impact on the issues that matter most to the communities we serve.
Making More Possible
Great communities don’t just happen, they need to be nurtured, encouraged, and empowered. When people have a place to grow, learn, and connect, communities flourish.
For more than two decades, Sammamish residents had been asking for a gathering place. In April 2016 that ask became a reality when, in partnership with the City of Sammamish, our newest and largest location opened its doors to the plateau’s residents.
While Sammamish is the city with the highest number per capita of youth under age 18 in the state, there were few opportunities for teens to participate in safe, positive activities outside of school time. The new Sammamish Community YMCA has increased programming for a rapidly expanding region and anticipates growing youth programs to reach 5,000 children and teens annually. The Teen Leadership Board, comprised of 30 local youth, is already extremely active and engages in impactful work both inside and outside the walls of the Y like organizing the annual Eggstravaganza event.
And in West Seattle, local donors raised $4 million dollars to renovate and expand their neighborhood Y.
Building Strong Foundations Tears Down Walls
The places where we live shape our lives and our overall well-being, especially for youth and young adults. The more time a young person spends without a stable home, the more difficult success becomes in almost every area of their life, continuing on into adulthood. The Y builds supportive relationships and sustainable frameworks that empower young adults to positively contribute to their communities and thrive for the future.
On any given night, more than 800 young people experience homelessness in King County. Abuse, coming out as LGBT, and aging out of foster care are all circumstances that often force youth from homes, to surviving on the streets. In Washington, one in four foster youths will experience homelessness after aging out of care.
“Homeless is just a place, a position in life. It’s not a decision. The biggest challenge is just accepting that’s your situation.” Powerful words from a 21-year-old who until very recently, called Seattle’s streets home.
Jaelyn discovered the Accelerator YMCA’s Young Adult Services (YAS), after aging out of foster care and struggling with homelessness for two years. The welcome and resources he’s found at YAS have helped him maintain stable housing and make progress towards achieving his life goals.
A Splash of Confidence: YMCA Global Guards Academy
Swimming isn’t just a lifesaving skill, it helps kids thrive in and out of the water. Swim lessons help kids and teens develop confidence by building their skills and giving them opportunities to be leaders among their peers. But when youth don’t have access to develop water safety skills, they’re more at risk for drowning and also miss the chance to participate in fun, meaningful recreation activities.
Over time, traditional lifeguard hiring methods have created a diversity discrepancy between pool staff and pool users. Youth of color are ten times more likely to drown in a pool than other kids of the same age. We’re changing that narrative by creating new training opportunities for youth who may currently lack skills, but are full of aspiration. Aquatics Director Nick Montgomery is bridging that gap and building a new generation of leaders through Global Guards Academy.
Nick describes his ah-ha moment:
“I was tired of turning these kids away who wanted jobs, so I thought, let’s make a program that doesn’t just teach them swimming but really shows them that when they’re giving it effort, we’re going to support them to reach every level of success.”
From Strangers to Neighbors: Welcoming Our Changing Community
Welcoming to all – a simple mission that becomes even more meaningful as our region grows and evolves. We know that when all residents are able to reach their full potential, their talents and contributions will create a better future for our community.
King County’s immigrant population has grown 64 percent since 2000, and thanks to support from donors, volunteers, and community partners we’ve created opportunities for new immigrants and refugees to get connected to their communities through two New American Welcome Centers. The centers provide multi-lingual information, health resources, all-ages ESL classes, afterschool enrichment, housing referrals, and multi-cultural celebrations.
“For more than 150 years the Y has been able to adapt and change to community needs, something I’m passionate about. Finding out who is in our community and how we are serving them,” shares Paul Lwali, Bellevue Family YMCA Branch Executive.
We live our healthiest lives when we have access to nutritious food, supportive spaces, and physical activities. Evidence-based health interventions like our chronic disease prevention programs, like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, help build a healthier community and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be the best version of themselves.
Today Y member Elizabeth is fully enjoying life, connecting with her community, and staying active with weekly fitness classes. But just a few years ago, she was plagued by multiple health challenges that made even routine activities difficult.
“I couldn’t even walk into more than one store when shopping, I had planter fasciitis so bad. I’d been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, hypertension, and I was obese,” she explains.
Volunteer Highlight: Sanjana
The word “leadership” used to terrify Sanjana. She described herself as shy, always taking a seat in the back row and avoiding eye contact with the teacher. But once she began volunteering with the Teen Leadership Board at her Y, Sanjana started to come out of her shell. She grew her confidence and became more comfortable speaking in public. After four years as a teen volunteer, Sanjana says she’s now a different person.
“I have become so much more confident than I ever expected,” Sanjana says. “In a society where teenagers are constantly told ‘you’re just a kid’ and ‘you don’t understand,’ volunteering with the Teen Leadership Board offered me a place to voice my opinions and contribute ideas in an atmosphere where they are actually heard and taken into account.”
Our work is only made possible by the generosity of donors and volunteers who helped us reach more people than ever before. Their support makes sure more kids create unforgettable memories at camp, every family has access to crucial crisis intervention support, no child in King County needs to go hungry, and so much more!
253,000 YOUTH FAMILIES & ADULTS
engaged with the Y through programs and facility memberships
were provided with a safe space, caring mentors, and academic support. Up 23 percent from 2015
31,700 PEOPLE RECEIVED $8.7 MILLION
in Financial Assistance to ensure everyone has a chance to succeed and belong at the Y