YMCA ACHIEVEMENT CENTER:
A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP PROMOTING POSITIVE BEHAVIOR IN LOCAL TEENS
Since its inception in 2016, the YMCA’s Achievement Center (YAC) at Hudson Memorial School has always been a place that believes in nurturing the potential of every child and teen by helping youth to cultivate the values, skills, and relationships that lead to positive behaviors, better health and achievement.
At the start of every class, students do a mini journal activity and practice a moment of gratitude. They write about:
• What are they grateful for?
• Who are they grateful for?
• What is something they are grateful for from the day before?
One assignment at the YMCA Achievement Center was to interview someone who has “grit.” These were the advice they were able to receive directly from the people two students look up to. This was a wonderful chance for the students to have honest conversations with their family:
“If you love something enough, and are willing to work hard at it, you can overcome any and all obstacles and failures you may run into on the way” Grandfather’s words
“Work hard. Never give up. Always do your best in everything you do. You will reap the benefits.” Mom’s Words
YAC Director Meredith Stensaas shared that now, maybe more than ever, students need this extra attention. “Our students share their voice outside of regular class time. We focus on relationship building with kids, positive psychology, and finding ways students can work together. All of this helps during this time of isolation.”
Since the pandemic hit, the YAC has been both remote and in-person, following the schedule of the school. They were fully remote in spring; hybrid classes in the fall and again fully remote for much of December. This fall 60 students were enrolled in YAC, and 100 this trimester. The average class size is between four and 10, and the students split into cohorts, to align with best practices during this pandemic.
Meredith’s background is in Outdoor Education. “This unseasonably warm fall allowed us to be outside a lot, doing team building activities, playing games, and problem solving together,” she said. “The ability of unpacking stressors in a slow form is powerful. Social emotional learning is big part of what we do. We spend time on mindfulness and focusing on what’s important to each student.” She added, “This is not a graded class. This takes pressure off the students. There’s not that pressure of right and wrong answers. We do de-stressing activities and work through meditations. This is all part of the helping them set goals and figure out how to achieve them. Mindfulness helps students work on what’s important to them.”
This partnership with Hudson Memorial School and the Y has been rewarding for both the Y and Hudson Memorial School. It is because of the belief of positive psychology, relationship building with students and shared focus on improving the community’s well-being that the YMCA Achievement Center at Hudson Memorial School has been so successful. This youth development initiative is designed to aid children in grades 6th, 7th and 8th establish skills to develop positive lifelong habits. The YAC supplements the core curriculum of the traditional classroom structure.
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