Students practicing leadership skills at YMCA

Education & Leadership

The Y connects kids to their potential, purpose and each other so they can shape the communities of tomorrow, today.

Education & Leadership

Mentors Who Care

The future success of children and teens is fostered by caring adults who help them feel confident, secure, imaginative and empowered in the present. That’s why Y staff and volunteers are also mentors and role models, sharing a part of this very important — and inspiring — responsibility in helping everyone to realize who they are and what they are capable of achieving.

Education & Leadership: Fast Facts

  • 1885 First Leaders Clubs at the Y

    Leaders Clubs began as early as 1885 at the YMCA in New York City to ensure programs had adequate supervision and to alleviate the shortage of onsite directors.

  • 50% less likely to engage in risky behavior

    Teens who engage in community service are 50 percent less likely to engage in risky behavior.

    Latham, L. (2003). Young volunteers: The benefits of community service (Fact Sheet-03-23). Retrieved from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension website.

  • 27% more likely to be employed

    Individuals with volunteer experience are 27 percent more likely to find employment than those without it.

    Spera, C., Ghertner, C., Nerino, A., & DiTommaso, A. (2013). Volunteering as a pathway to employment: Does volunteering increase odds of finding a job for the out of work? Retrieved from Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Evaluation website. 

  • 82% of students

    82% of students who participated in service-learning had increased positive feelings towards attending high school.

Teen working with a tutor on homework

Closing the Opportunity Gap

All children and teens have potential, but some may need additional support to reach it. Research shows that kids from underserved and low-income families often start school underprepared and fall behind as a result, creating an opportunity gap. To help close this gap, the Y provides programs to improve students’ educational readiness and progress, while helping them grow emotionally and physically, too.

African American male smiling wearing graduation cap and gown

Achievers Programs

Since 1967, Achievers Programs have empowered Black teens to develop a positive sense of self, and to inspire their pursuit of education and career goals. Through academic aid, career exploration, mentoring and more, Achievers Programs encourage young people to raise their academic standards, build character and confidence, explore diverse college and career options and learn from inspiring role models.

YMCA members working together outdoors

Leaders Clubs

Leaders Clubs connect young people ages 12-18 with adult advisors to develop their leadership potential while fostering a culture of service. With the help of role models and mentors, these teens develop the skills they need to lead positive change in their communities.

YMCA Youth and Government

Youth and Government™

Youth and Government™ gives thousands of students across the U.S. the opportunity to immerse themselves in state-organized, model-government programs, where they literally practice democracy. Throughout the year, teens meet locally to discuss and debate issues, propose legislation and more, culminating with participants serving as delegates at their state conference, debating bills on the floor of the legislature.

youth sitting outside with camp counselor

Counselor in Training (CIT) and Leader in Training (LIT) Teen Leadership Programs at Camp

Camp provides a unique opportunity for young people to develop leadership skills that can be used at home, school and in the community — not just at camp. LITs (ages 13-15) focus on working with younger campers and contributing to the community, while older CITs gain the experience they need to apply to be a counselor at camp next summer. Both programs help young people build their skills, confidence and capacity for leading people of all ages.

Teen speaking at a microphone with papers in hand

Global Service Learning

The Y’s Global Service Learning experiences help young people develop into the next generation of inclusive, globally-minded leaders. Participants expand their perspectives, deepen cross-cultural understanding, and further the Y’s mission of transforming communities worldwide. These future leaders become equipped to help build bridges, connect diverse populations, and ultimately create stronger, more connected global communities for all.

Education & Leadership Stories

Watch to learn how the Y's education & leadership programs have positively impacted the lives of these inspiring program participants.

Watch more Y stories

  • She's Increased Her Academic Abilities and Her Confidence

    Jasmyn’s mom could have let family watch her daughter after school, but she sent Jasmyn to the Lompoc Family YMCA’s afterschool program instead. There, Jasmyn gets homework help, works on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) projects and plays outdoors with friends. Watch how this vibrant 12-year-old has formed connections and improved her grades at the Y. This is her Y. Her Camera. Her story.

  • A Safe Place To Go After School

    Laila likes to dance and swim at the Y in Central Maryland, but she really loves participating in the Y Achievers Program. In Y Achievers, she gets homework help, goes on college visits and field trips, all while learning valuable college, career and life skills. Her mom is proud to see her form positive relationships with peers and adult leaders, all in a safe environment. This is her Y. Her camera. Her story.

  • The Counselors Show Us Talents We Didn’t Know We Had

    How do you turn summer vacation in the city into an urban adventure? Become a Green Tween at Greenpoint YMCA! Through this STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program, Angel went on educational field trips, gardened on a green roof, tried computer coding and more. As a result, he improved his leadership and public speaking skills, grew more independent and became an environmental agent of change. This is his Y. His camera. His story.

  • The Y Has Given Me a Place to Be Unconditionally Myself

    For as long as she can remember, Haley's thought of herself as a ballerina. But through the Y's Youth and Government™ program, Haley was empowered to expand not only her thinking, but the thinking of her entire generation. This is her Y. Her camera. Her story.

  • My Kids Have More Confidence in School

    Dulce would love nothing more than to see her children become nurses, veterinarians or even president. That's why her kids, Megan, Brandon and Xitlali, are getting the tutoring they need in math and reading at Granite YMCA. This is their Y. Their camera. Their story.

Find Your Y

Search for the Y closest to you and visit their website to learn how to get involved today.

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