Black YMCA CEO, first Black CEO at YMCA, Kevin Washington, Lifestyle, National, News, programs for Black youth, programs for urban youth, Race, YMCA -

YMCA’s First Black CEO Ready to Expand Programs That Could Keep Urban Youths Off the Streets

Black YMCA CEO, first Black CEO at YMCA, Kevin Washington, Lifestyle, National, News, programs for Black youth, programs for urban youth, Race, YMCA -

YMCA’s First Black CEO Ready to Expand Programs That Could Keep Urban Youths Off the Streets

Bringing Boston's lessons to ChicagoFor the first time in the extensive history of the YMCA, the nonprofit is being led by a Black CEO who has already expressed a clear interest in expanding the many programs that provided him with guidance and opportunity growing up.

When riots filled the streets of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a key part of the national discussion centered around the deeply rooted issues that plague many Black communities across the globe. One of those issues was the lack of efficient recreational facilities, school programs and other resources for youths in low-income neighborhoods.

Experts have long noted the importance of extracurricular activities for young people as one of the many lines of defense that could keep youths off the streets and out of trouble.

For that reason, the YMCA’s first Black CEO is eagerly pursuing the expansion of the many programs that accomplished that goal in his life.

Kevin Washington by no means had an easy childhood.

From the age of 10, he grew up in a rough section of South Philadelphia but managed to stay out of trouble after joining the YMCA.

He recalled the first time he hopped into the pool’s deep end, conquering his fears and resurfacing above the water.

“I jumped in and hit the bottom,” Washington recalled in an interview, according to Fox News. “I remember that feeling of accomplishment when you come back up.”

It’s those moments at the recreational center that Washington believes could have a serious impact on young Black men who may be trying to navigate life’s toughest challenges without mentorship, guidance or a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

Washington spent his entire life with the YMCA, first as a visiting youth and later as a professional climbing the career ladder of one of the country’s largest nonprofit organizations.

But Washington hopes to do more than just keep the young community busy with swimming pools and sports facilities.

Over the years, the YMCA’s programs have expanded to help the many impoverished, urban communities that need assistance the most.

YMCA programs “In addition to standard offerings — gyms, swimming pools, fitness programs — Ys are engaged in diabetes prevention, low-income housing services, support for cancer survivors, and myriad other endeavors,” Fox News reports. “The Y in El Paso, Texas, has been assisting residents with tax returns, received a grant to curtail binge drinking and offers its premises to estranged couples as a neutral site for a child’s visits with the non-custodial parent.”

Over the summer, the centers welcome more than 900,000 children to their summer camps and even offer reading and math programs to make sure students don’t fall behind academically during their time off from school.

As Washington takes over, he hopes to continue to build such programs but warns that it’s a task that will come with a hefty pricetag.

“We haven’t gotten our full and proper support,” Washington told The Associated Press. “You’re going to see a much more aggressive YMCA in terms of telling our story, so we can have the resources to expand the programs.”

While the YMCA has certainly been flourishing financially, Washington insists that people focus on how much work still needs to be done in communities all across the country and how the Y will be in a better position to help fulfill those goals with more financial backing.

Some of the nonprofit’s programs are limited to certain cities or regions when there are clear needs for such programs in all communities.

After witnessing first-hand how such programs can truly change the lives of the residents in the area, Washington is focused on giving everybody, particularly those in low-income communities, the chance to have their own YMCA-related success story “regardless of economics.”

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