Asking the Questions that Matter

Rachael Rinaldo, Sr. Director, New Americans Initiative at YMCA of Greater New York

Asking the Questions that Matter

Asking the Questions that Matter

Posting Date: Sept. 13, 2018

The Y serves as a vital community resource, a positive environment and a safe haven for children, teens and adults as they work towards their goals in the areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. One always finds a welcoming smile and a place to belong, and across the YMCA Movement we ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive together.

YMCAs across the country play a large, impactful role in ensuring everyone is welcome — no matter an individual’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, languages spoken; whether you’re small or large, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter! Through proven best practices, we provide opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential. From the young child in a Universal Pre-Kindergarten program in Kansas to a new immigrant in Twin Cities, to an older adult in Seattle, the Y guarantees access to all, regardless of income, age or immigration status. From the shores of San Diego to the concrete jungles of New York, the Y builds bridges between communities and creates opportunities for people to access education, employment, civic engagement opportunities, social services and other vital resources. From the mountains of Colorado to the flatlands of Texas, the Y convenes community members in a safe place where they can feel they belong, fulfill their right to self-expression, seek and impart information, be free from divisiveness, violence and harassment, and access the opportunity to break free from isolation and gain equitable access to social goods and services. And the impact is evident in the millions of children, teens and adults we serve: youth are bridging the education gap, individuals are lowering their risk for diabetes, newcomers are integrating into their new communities, second graders are learning to swim, disconnected youth are becoming engaged, individuals are overcoming addiction and mental health issues, teens are becoming leaders in their communities and growing into civic-minded young adults, and the list goes on.

During Welcoming Week this year, I will be asking a lot of questions. We are living in times that are exhausting, divisive and when — more than ever — we need to create and sustain welcoming, safe spaces for all! Some of my questions include:

  • Are we doing enough?
  • Are we creating safe spaces for all?
  • Are we able to bring more communities together and blur the lines that divide us?
  • Are we doing enough as a Y Movement to create opportunities for social equity and social justice for all?
  • What is the Y’s place in the community?

I seek the answers from my colleagues, peers, friends, family, neighbors and those who create opportunities to welcome and engage the silenced, marginalized and criminalized black, Muslim, immigrant, poor, unemployed, underemployed and underserved communities. This year more than ever, we must leverage our privilege, continue fighting for equity and human rights and create bigger, brighter spaces that are diverse, inclusive and welcoming. There is a generation that is looking to us for a way. A way to deflect and eradicate racism, cultural bias, Muslim backlash; a generation that is looking up and pleading with us to be brave, courageous and the voice of reason and reassurance. Let’s build momentum and create opportunities for all communities where everyone can reap the fruits of possibility — the possibility of new friendships, new ideas and fresh, new perspectives.

What questions will you ask?