Forward with the Y: Ryan Louis's journey from Strong Kid to College Man
Being accepted to college is among the most profound transformations that a young person can experience. The Y acts as a catalyst and support system for thousands of New York teens who require an extra boost to get ahead.
One young man whose journey was enhanced by the YMCA is Ryan Louis, a self-described "beneficiary of the YMCA's Annual Strong Kids Campaign and a leader in the Y Scholars program."
The Cure for Isolation
Ryan originally came to the YMCA to escape his high school lunchroom. Gramercy Arts High School has more than 1,200 teens and can be a pretty chaotic place - and not always the most welcoming environment.
As soon as he began going to the Y during lunch period, Ryan was hooked. He attended Y Leaders Club meetings during study periods and within a few weeks was invited to join a new Y program called Y Scholars - a kind of "Super Leaders Club."
The goal of the Y Scholars program is to get teens ready to go to college - but Ryan says, "I find myself using the skills I have acquired each and every day."
At Y Scholars, teens discuss the things they will be responsible for once they leave home, as well as the things they might study in college. They investigate careers they might be interested in pursuing, and actions they can take to help them prepare for their eventual professional lives.
Last summer Ryan had the opportunity to work as a Counselor in Training at the McBurney Y Summer Day Camp. He didn't realize how much he would enjoy working with younger kids until the Y gave him new responsibilities. The experience also allowed him to use the leadership skills and team-building strategies he had learned through Y Scholars.
"Sure, we were having lots fun at camp, but I could also see how the Y is a leadership lab for New York's young people," Ryan says, "how one generation of Y members pays it forward to the next."
College is Calling
Ryan's hard work and his Y experiences paid off - he was recently accepted to attend Springfield College in Massachusetts.
Ryan's choice of Springfield is especially notable because the college shares a unique history with the YMCA. Springfield's heritage and partnership with the Y date back to the establishment of the college in 1885, when it began serving as the training ground for many YMCA executives and staff. In many ways, Springfield College is a leadership incubator for the YMCA organization itself.
"After graduating college, I hope to come back to the City and work for the YMCA of Greater New York," says Ryan. "It would be an honor to work for an organization that has given so much to me and my friends."