It’s Fun to Serve at the YMCA

It’s Fun to Serve at the YMCA

‘Tis the season for endless Ehrler’s ice cream, fun in the sun, and lazy poolside days. But, for Global Game Changers (GGC) summer is our time to meet unfamiliar faces and empower a new league of Superheroes to Ignite Good!

Thanks to our incredible partnership with the YMCA of Greater Louisville, we took the season by storm and pioneered a three-week program jam-packed with engaging activities and unique opportunities for students to kickstart their social and emotional learning before the new school year. Because of the C.E. and S. Foundation’s generous support and dedication to out-of-school time programming, we were able to visit over nine Title 1 JCPS elementary schools and spread our mission to over 720 kids.

Students were eagerly led into their school gymnasium each day to rotate through a variety of stations. GGC State AmeriCorps Members, AmeriCorps VISTAs, and YMCA staff guided students through intentional mini-lessons and activities centered around GGC’s twelve Heart Badges. It was an opportunity for students to relax and have fun, while also learning the importance of philanthropy and giving back. Students honed in their writing and artistic talents by creating thank-you cards for veterans and rescue workers, brainstormed different acts of kindness to put into the Ignite Good! jar, played an interactive Superhero Pose game, and participated in physical fitness to promote health and wellness.

Enthusiasm for activities was contagious. One student, Silas, showcased his talents for singing and dancing during the talent show portion. He treated students and educators to his own rendition of the popular hit, “Old Town Road.” Silas found a platform in which he could shine but also learned that he could use his passion for performing to make a difference.

Educators practiced their talents for communication and organization to be certain that each student received guidance and attention. YMCA staff such as Kristina Stone at Gutermuth Elementary stayed actively involved, encouraging students throughout each station. Although students did not complete their own service project- a trademark of GGC’s curriculum- they did complete their individualized Superpower Equation (MY TALENT+MY HEART=MY SUPERPOWER) to determine how they can put their gifts into action.

We believe that learning doesn’t have to equate to just sitting in a classroom. Learning can be tied to interactive games, collaboration, and practicing newfound talents. One activity in particular taught students power skills such as empathy, patience, and compassion. Educators gave students glasses that were clouded over and instructed them to read something. Astonishment poured across faces as students realized how challenging it was to perform even the most simple tasks with the glasses on. The activity gave them an understanding of what individuals who have trouble seeing experience every day.

For many of these students, access to enriching educational programs are few and far between. Many are plagued with financial burdens, lack basic necessities, and often do not have positive role models beyond the classroom, causing them to fall behind socially and academically. They are in desperate need of mentors to instill social-emotional competencies often taken for granted.

One of GGC’s State AmeriCorps Members, Naomi Deeds, saw first-hand how much GGC programming had an impact on students. Her experience only strengthened her belief that we should never underestimate the power children have.

“There’s more to these kids than just the fact that they are behind in school,” says Deeds. “A lot of them are trying very hard even when it seems like they’re not. It’s easy to see a kid that’s behind in school and think a dozen different things about them. They’re trying, but life is just a struggle. They’re primarily underprivileged kids. It’s a different life they’re trying to live; some don’t even get to be kids anymore.”

Deeds encountered one 3rd grader who is wholly responsible for translating for her parents who do not speak English. Instead of putting her focus on math, science, or even just being a kid, she must constantly worry about navigating her parents through everyday tasks. Students like her need a chance to have fun and an outlet to be creative and learn in an exciting way.

Our goal was to help children as young as five realize they have something special to offer. Instilling that confidence at a young age will pave the way for future success. Looking forward, we are ecstatic to continue spreading our mission to even more students this upcoming school year. Our hope is to empower kids to change the world, one act of service at a time!