“My daughter, Jane, started Kindergarten last fall at P.S. 34. I wanted her to get one thing and one thing only out of this first year of school— to get up every morning excited to get to her classroom and see what the day would bring. I figured that if she were happy the learning would take care of itself. When school started, she did love Kindergarten. After school, from three until six, was a different story. She clearly needed a change of scenery, and a lot more physical activity than she was getting at her program. Pretty soon she started announcing that she didn’t want to go to school anymore. Mornings became a huge struggle, and not even her enthusiastic teacher, her new friends, and her newfound reading and writing skills—all of which she adored—were enough. My husband and I both work full-time, and didn’t know what to do. When someone told me that the Y had an afterschool program, I signed Jane up immediately. What a difference we saw! She loved being picked up at school in a group, walking over to the Y, and getting out her energies in the gym or in the pool. She loved the counselors, who ran things smoothly, kept everyone busy, and helped with homework while also being silly and relating to the kids at their level. She loved making friends from older grades and from P.S. 31. And she loved her ballet and gymnastics enrichment classes. Most of all, she stopped complaining about school, and is now happy to go every morning. She can enjoy school in part because she looks forward to the fun that comes after.” – Naomi Hassebroek
This recollection is one of over 1,100 collected for the YMCA of Greater New York’s 160th Anniversary Story Sharing Campaign. Rather than a cake or a party, the Y is marking the occasion by asking members to submit stories about how the Y has impacted their lives to a timeline on their website. Entries range from praise for individual programs to tales of finding a job to stories about lifelong involvement with the Y.
Not surprisingly, the YMCA of Greater New York’s initial goal of 1,000 submissions was surpassed quickly, including many stories about the Greenpoint Y.
Rena McGreevy joined the Greenpoint Y in 1974 as a volunteer, working with kids in club groups, then as a swim instructor/lifeguard and eventually in day camp. She worked her way up to Aquatic Director and Camp Director and, after college, became an Assistant Youth and Family Director. After spending 10 years in New England as a Director in Program and then Executive Director, she returned to New York where she is now the Chief Operating Officer of the Y of Greater NY. “I am so fortunate to have been part of the YMCA my whole life,” she wrote. “To see all of the lives that we impact everyday and to be part of something so purposeful and significant.”
When an unemployed Enrique Colon visited the Greenpoint Y in 1993, he just wanted to get membership information. Then Membership Director Linda Silvestri learned that he was tri-lingual (Spanish, English and Polish) and asked him if he was interested in working for the YMCA. Following an interview he got the job.
A basketball game at the Greenpoint branch led to an artistic collaboration when artist Tim Kelly approached Y employee Karina Montoya about his world-wide art undertaking, the Puzzle Project. Montoya liked the idea and over a ten-week period, he taught “Art is Good” puzzle making workshops five days a week in YMCA after-school programs, resulting in approximately 300 unique artistic puzzle pieces. “When I arrived each day the kids and teens would great me with big smiles and open creative minds.” Those pieces have since been on display at the Spattered Columns Gallery in Soho and at the Middletown Arts Center in NJ.
“Since I joined the Y for a workout, every year I get more and more involved,” wrote Santiago Reyes. “Now, the Y gives me the opportunity to give what I received back to the younger group. I’m working for the Greenpoint Y and it’s probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Tatiana Terzuoli, Director of Fund Development and Communications, said that stories from older participants who remember coming to the Y as a child, and are still part of it, touched her the most. But she also found the stories about overcoming personal challenges, such as shyness or achieving goals, to be inspiring. “If I read one story, I end up reading about 50. They are that captivating, as if you’re reading someone’s personal journal.”
There is still time to submit your YMCA story. The deadline is December 31, 2012. Readers can go to www.ymcanyc.org/your-story to share their story.
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