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New York City’s YMCA Where There’s a Y, There’s a Way

Members Profile: Colin Peters

Colin Peters

As a teen athlete working out at the local Y, Colin Peters says he had no idea how many lives the Y touched.

'As Long As I'm Around'

Colin Peters is the immediate past board chair of the McBurney YMCA, serving at various times as chair of its annual campaign, board development and finance committees. He is a graduate of Hofstra University and an employee of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and currently resides in Brooklyn. He shares with us how his connection with the Y has evolved and some lessons he's learned along the way.

More Than Meets the Eye
When I was 15, I was heavily into sports. The Y was a place for me to go work out—the only gym I could afford. It wasn't until I actually started volunteering at the McBurney YMCA that I learned how much more there is to the Y.

After I completed a training program through the United Way of New York City, I was nominated to the McBurney board in 2007. By then I had learned that the Y is far more than just a gym. It's a dynamic, malleable organization that pretty much does everything. I think that's why it's been around for over 160 years.

What I mean by "malleable" is that the Y will continue to consistently adapt toward the needs of the communities it serves—and establish itself within new communities like it did in Coney Island and the Rockaways. We will see an expansion of programs and services ranging from public health to teen job readiness, in addition to a geographic expansion of the branches.

As the city has changed over time, the Y has adapted its offerings to meet the changing needs of those in the community, and I see it continuing to adjust accordingly for the next 160 years.

Better Together
Working with my executive director, I'm finding new ways to get involved and to contribute.

There are a couple of differences serving as a chair versus serving as a board member. One is managing expectations of board members—setting the tone for conversations and communicating the needs of the branch effectively to our boards so that we can make impactful decisions and have meaningful conversations to help promote the mission of the Y.

Being a board member is a practical way to build that skill set: communicating, being organized and so on. These skills transfer to life in terms of building accountability. I take being a member of the McBurney board very seriously in terms of the impact we can have on the organization itself.

As a member of the board and then as the chair, I've developed a number of these skills myself, and so now I am trying to mentor others into similar roles. I've worked closely with John Rappaport, the executive director at McBurney.

In the last couple of years, we've come a long way in terms of how we recruit board members. We look for individuals who have exhibited leadership, whether in the community, in extracurricular activities, or coming out of undergraduate or graduate programs. These kinds of individuals will quickly grasp what it means to be a committed board member for a nonprofit organization like the Y.

A Force for Change
I didn't know what the Heritage Society was, but I recognized the Y as an organization that has given so much to me as a teenager. And now I'm serving as a board member—which I could never have imagined when I was growing up. And I'm contributing toward the future of an organization that contributed to my future. My passions and the change that I want to see in the world are in line with what the Y is about.

As long as the Y is around, I will be around the Y. It's a great opportunity to give back. As long as I'm around I'll help out, because I've never seen an organization as dynamic as the Y.

You Can Make a Difference
New York City's YMCA helps more than 500,000 people each year to live healthier lives. Visit our website to learn how you can make a gift to support our good work in the city for years to come.

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