Ymca Brings Local Leaders Together To Improve Education

Y of Central Florida :: Youth Development


With our children’s future at stake, more than 70 local education leaders recently attended a YMCA Youth Development event to discuss how we could work together to improve student success.

OCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara and Dr. Ann Manley of Dr. Phillips CharitiesDuring a luncheon held at Leu Gardens, Dr. Jesus Jara, Deputy Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) discussed the district’s progress and challenges in closing the academic achievement gap. He also expressed gratitude for strong partners like the YMCA, which is helping improve “out-of-school time” learning through a strong portfolio of after-school programs, many of which are operated onsite at nearly 50 OCPS locations. Quoting Dr. Nelson Mandela, Jara said education is the most powerful weapon in changing lives – especially children’s lives. “This is obviously at the heart of everything we do and it’s the key to the Y’s partnership.” YMCA President/CEO Jim Ferber echoed the sentiment, noting that it’s especially important for kids to have academic support, safety and structure during after-school hours. It’s why the organization recently revamped all of its Youth Development programs to include at least 60 minutes of reading instruction, as well as equal amounts of time dedicated to values, wellness and strengthening families. As part of its long-range planning, Ferber said the Y also intends to expand proven-practice programs like the YMCA After School Zone, funded through Orange County Government. Operated at 14 area middle schools, it has a 15-year history of helping more than 130,000 kids improve grades and school attendance, while reducing juvenile crime. Joan Nelson, VP Community Investment, United Way, Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development, Rich Sloane, Director UCF College of Education and Human Performance, Florida State Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, and Jim Ferber, YMCA President & CEOCrystal Perry, Project Manager for BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), discussed an innovative pilot program operated by BELL and the Y to reverse summer learning loss. Offered this summer at McCoy Elementary, a Title 1 school, Perry said students gained an average of six months of learning in just six weeks. “We’ve created a wonderful model at McCoy,” Perry said. “And we have an incredible opportunity to join together and take this success much further.” In urging greater collaboration, Shannon Matthews, YMCA Vice President of Youth Development, said schools are running as hard as they can and need the support of others who are willing to run alongside them. “Today, we have a unique opportunity to stand together as a community and nurture our youth by improving their educational outcomes,” Matthews said. “The Y has a place and way for you to serve, and together we can achieve amazing things.” With committees forming around early learning readiness, preventing summer learning loss, out-of-school-time learning and community partnerships, the group plans to meet again on October 16th to determine priorities and next steps.