By Guest Blogger, Steve Tarver, President/CEO
Over the last decade, the YMCA of Greater Louisville has been reinventing itself. With the decline in the health of our community, we have turned our gaze outward. We continue to work hard for the thousands of people who come into our branches to play basketball, swim, learn yoga or just socialize. We have hundreds of success stories – people who have lost weight, recovered from injury, reduced the impact of chronic disease and found new careers through their involvement in the Y.
But a building full of healthy folks in the midst of a community that continues to be plagued by obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable conditions is not how we envision success. We are not just a fitness facility – we are a non-profit organization committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. We wish to explore the root causes of people’s health issues and one of those, the research shows, is education. That’s why we are increasingly engaged with our community and many other community organizations to see how we can play a role in raising educational achievement in Louisville.
We Support Out-of-School-Time Learning. There is growing evidence that academic achievement is greatly enhanced by summer learning programs as well as before- and after-school care enrichment. New research indicates that in some cases children’s tests scores were one month lower when they returned to school in fall than when they left in spring if they had no significant involvement in summer time learning.
Since your YMCA is the state’s largest day care provider and we have more than 3,100 children enrolled each week in our summer camps, we can provide those opportunities. We are actively engaged in the community’s 55,000 Degrees, working to build a culture in our community of college-going (and completion) behavior. The community’s challenge is to make more learning available for children outside the classroom, and we are working collaboratively to put together a comprehensive network of quality, safe and engaging activities for children during their out-of-school time.
Several Y branches offer tutoring for kids after school and last year our summer camps added reading as one of their activities. Many of the children in our summer camps participate in the Louisville Free Public Library’s summer reading program. Later this year, the Y will initiate an early learning readiness program aimed at families whose children are not in structured child care settings. Along with many other community organizations, we will work with Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens to extend learning opportunities.
And of course the Y will continue in its long-standing role. Keeping kids active in our before- and after-school care and sports programs goes hand-in-hand with academic performance.
We also use the Y5210 program for both in-school and out-of-school youth. Developed in partnership with Humana and the Mayor’s Health Hometown Movement, Y5210 reaches 10,000 JCPS students daily. It spreads the word of good health through an easy formula:
5 – Servings of fruits and vegetables every day
2- Hours or less of screen time
1 – Hour of physical activity daily
0 – Sugar-sweetened beverages
Feedback from the program indicates that children who participate have more focus in the classroom, improved attention spans, fewer behavior disruptions and increased awareness of healthy activity and food choices. Why not adopt these guidelines in your own home?
Along with struggles with academic performance, today’s children are facing a future of overweight and obesity. Just last week, it was reported the obesity epidemic is expected to worsen, with more children and adults affected. It’s doesn’t have to be that way.
You can make a difference in the life of a child. Be engaged. Make sure the children you live or work with are engaged. Put away the electronic devices. Participate in a sports program. Take a walk in a park. Start today.
Together, we can build a stronger, healthier and BETTER EDUCATED community.