The Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, Inc. exists to promote, support, and protect member YMCAs as premier not-for-profit charitable community service organizations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Alliance of Massachusetts YMCA's, by influencing public policy and connection to evidenced based solutions, supports and advocates on behalf of its member Ys to share their collective impact with one voice to solve critical social issues in the areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility.
The Massachusetts YMCAs serve 1.2 million people across the Commonwealth. With over 410 service locations, there are 370,000 children and teens being served, providing a wide range of activities to nurture their potential and ensure their success. With over 21,000 volunteers with 333,700 hours and over 16,000 employees, the Y is making a difference in all of the communities it serves.
With a focus on Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility, the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs serves all YMCA branches in the state by advocating on their behalf and providing a multitude of programs across the state. The Alliance of MA YMCAs are part of the Pioneering Healthier Communities work, an effort to create a healthier Massachusetts by facilitating conversations, passing policy, and running programs around physical activity and healthy eating. The Alliance of MA YMCAs also works in conjunction with early education and after school care providers to advocate for a reduction in the income-eligible waitlist and an increase in the salary reserve for early education teachers. The Alliance has been working with the local Y’s to have a positive impact on the achievement gap in Massachusetts, in order to ensure that all our children served can read atthe appropriate grade level. Additionally we address youth at risk, childhood obesity, and prevention of child abuse. Together the YMCAs in Massachusetts have created over 1100 policy changes.
Together we believe we can continue to serve our Massachusetts communities in creating a healthy and positive Commonwealth for our future generations.
WORDS FROM THE DIRECTOR
“Democracy must be learned by each generation.” The Massachusetts Youth and Government program holds and executes this adage perfectly. The mission of the program is to encourage leadership and civic engagement under the four YMCA core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, and caring. The program is a conglomeration of smaller delegations spread out all across the state. Youth and Government involves high school students from different high schools, social, economic, and political backgrounds.
Upon registration, delegates are offered a choice of joining the Executive branch, Judicial branch, Legislative branch, Press Corps or Lobbyist Corps. Each derivative of the Youth in Government program focuses on specific forms of communication and character. The Executive branch calls all the shots, per say. They make the big decisions and help advisors to oversee the program. To be a powerful contender in the Legislative branch, one must have superfluous charisma and persuasion. The Judicial branch accepts delegates who are passionate and logical, who can examine a case from multiple different lenses, even if they may not agree with their own. Lobbyists are quick thinkers and have the canny ability to sell you your own shoe. The Press Corps recruits eloquent speakers and effective writers with strong desires to share relevant news and even stronger tendencies to gossip.
High school students (grades 9-12) participate in four Pre-Legislations in preparation for Conference. Pre-Legislations, held at sponsor colleges, are statewide and last a whole Saturday. Delegates attend workshops and participate in activities that help them grow their debating skills, improve writing ability and expand their network. Workshops are tailored towards certain branches and have different objectives, prompting delegates to interact outside of their own delegation. At these Pre-Legislations, Press members will work on releasing a new issue of The Beacon, Youth and Government’s newspaper. Appellate and Mock Trial delegates will re-examine their cases and practice court procedure. All in preparation for the big Conference.
At the end of the year, all the delegates will attend a 3 day Conference. Conference is held in the Omni Parker Hotel and also in the State House. Here, Legislative delegates present their Bills. Judicial delegates will argue their cases. The Press Corps bustle from room to room, trying to hear the next scoop. Lobbyists team up with their Bill writers. At the end of the 3 days, all the branches reconvene for a goodbye luncheon and awards are presented. Some delegates will be accepted into the Conference of National Affairs in North Carolina that summer, others will be going to the National Judicial Conference in Illinois.
Through the program, one develops character. The delegate too taciturn to speak up during Pre-Leg 1 could become a vociferous force by Conference. The first-year delegate overwhelmed by the grandiose of the Omni Parker could be the same delegate laughing and appreciating the view at Blue Ridge Mountain of North Carolina 3 years later. That is the ultimate goal of the Youth and Government program. Democracy must be learned by each generation, but so must respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.
To learn more about Youth and Government, click here.
The Alliance of Massachusetts YMCA’s (The Alliance) works tirelessly to promote and support member YMCAs by influencing public policy and advocating on behalf of its member Ys to share their impact with one voice to solve critical social issues in the areas of Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. The National Y, in conjunction with the Surgeon General’s Office, called upon state alliances to join Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities initiative, asking the Alliance to coordinate a statewide event in order to increase physical activity through the promotion of walkable communities. Walkable communities are communities that are safe for people of all abilities who are walking, biking, driving or using any other form of transportation.
Six Ys across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Athol, Lynn, Lawrence, Greenfield, Old Colony, and Cambridge) chose to participate in the initiative and held their own unique walkability events where students advocated to improve the walkability of their communities. The general outline of the events was for the students in the afterschool programs to conduct walk-audit scavenger hunts to identify present and missing walkability components that they thought needed to be fixed. They were then asked to create posters or other visual aids to showcase their findings which were to be presented to municipal leaders in press conferences at the municipal hall.
While the Athol, Lawrence and Lynn YMCAs did, not all of the participating Ys followed this outline due to lack of staff, unsafe walking conditions surrounding the Y or other constraints, but all did an excellent job advocating for their communities. Greenfield YMCAs alternative activity was incorporated into their 6-week activity team challenge, where the walk-audits were completed by adult participants during their “kick-off” walk on Saturday, May 21st. Old Colony YMCA educated their students on walkability and its’ importance to the community and completed their scavenger hunts the following day, but were unable to walk to city hall due to weather and held their presentation at their Y location in Stoughton. The Cambridge YMCA conducted their scavenger hunts and took the opportunity to educate the children as they did so. The students presented their findings to the Alliance staff at their Cambridge location.
Through these events, the Alliance was able to educate nearly 200 students, staff and municipal leaders on the importance of walkability in their communities and potentially affected entire communities by advocating for change. Students learned the importance of advocacy work and were the voice of this initiative, speaking to their municipal leaders and educating them on what walkability is and what it means to them. The importance of not only educating students, but involving them in the advocacy process allows them to get involved and understand the positive impact that they can have on their community. During their presentation, two students from the Lynn YMCA stated that their suggested improvements “can help make our streets safer and better for our entire community. They can help lower the chances of accidents and get our children and other community members a chance to go home to their families” (Two students Lynn YMCA). On a walk-audit scavenger hunt worksheet, one student from the Cambridge YMCA stated the following when asked why fixing these problems was important to her and her community: “There would be less accidents/injuries to bike riders and pedestrians who are walking. It is important because we are part of this community and should take care of it” (Mariana, Cambridge YMCA). It is clear that these events were effective in educating children of the Y as well as municipal staff and community members about the importance of walkability and how it can be improved in their communities. The Alliance thanks all those who were involved in making this initiative a success.
The message of the YMCAs everywhere is no secret; for years, the YMCA has made countless efforts in support of Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility. Seeing as the Y has been an integral part of over 10,000 communities over the course of 171 years, it is no surprise that the Y has adopted a sense of responsibility to the people within the communities they exist in. Though programs vary state to state, and program to program, the underlying goal remains the same: improving the lives of children and families nationwide. In order to ensure the healthy lifestyles of over 700,000 youth, Y-USA made a commitment to both First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to do their part in ending the childhood obesity epidemic. The ultimate result yielded the development of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, now implemented in almost all Ys across the country.
The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, or “HEPA”, focus on 6 pillars of childcare, including Parent Engagement, Physical Activity, Screen time, Food, Beverages, and Infant Feeding. Requirements are based on both half days and full days of early education and out of school time care, with an emphasis on staff involvement and reinforcement. For example, children are encouraged to be served fruits and veggies every day as part of their snack, so the staff caring for those children are expected to enforce healthy eating by participating themselves. HEPA also focuses on separating children who participate in Y programs from technology that is ever-prominent in today’s society. A huge contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic is the sedentary lifestyle that watching TV and playing with phones encourages. If one decreases screen time, one encourages other more physically geared outlets of entertainment!
Oftentimes when thinking of the health of a child, one glances over mental well-being. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and is why the Y’s HEPA focuses on the Parental Involvement. There is only so much a progress a child can make within a program; healthy behaviors need to continue to be enforced within the home. Due to this, the HEPA standards require that Y programs distribute informal materials to parents giving them tips on things like healthy eating and physical activity. As Judith Billings, a Washington State superintendent once said, “Children are the priority. Change is the reality. Collaboration is the strategy.”
To read more about the HEPA standards click here!
We all know that education can play a huge part in ensuring the quality of one’s life, particularly with younger individuals. When provided with a valuable early-education, younger individuals are far less likely to commit crimes and abuse drugs. It is because of the aforementioned facts why we are so impressed by the collaboration of the Springfield YMCA, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, and Superintendent Daniel Warwick of the Springfield Community; the trio (along with the cooperation of two other different early education providers) is ensuring the early education of 195 children aged 4 this coming fall. The initiative, known as SCOOP (Springfield Cooperative Preschool), will operate out of a local Early Education Center with the help of a federal grant geared towards the preschool development expansion, put in place by the Obama administration. Alongside two other outstanding organizations, the YMCA of Greater Springfield will run preschool classes out of the new location, while continuing to run their regularly scheduled preschool classes. Read more about this amazing initiative geared towards bettering the lives of children by clicking here!