Nurturing the potential of every child and teen

The YMCA of Youngstown believes that all kids deserve the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. That is why, through the Y, hundreds of youth are taking a greater interest in learning, making smarter life choices and cultivating the values, skills and relationships that lead to positive behaviors and the pursuit of higher education and goal achievement.

The Y wants all parents and guardians to know that we take the care of your child very seriously.

Hine Memorial Fund – Thank You

nullThe Central YMCA of Youngstown has received a generous gift from the Hine Memorial Fund of the Youngstown Foundation providing opportunities for children with medically diagnosed disabilities in the new Adventure Center that was added to the Central Y during renovation. A portion of the donation was put toward rebuilding the accessibility ramp at the entrance of the building.

The Adventure Center was created with Universal Design principles making it accessible to all children. Kids ages 2 and up can experience fun and creative play, while supervised by a parent or guardian in this space. Features of the Adventure Center include a Smart Play Motion indoor playground, traversing wall, and super-sized building blocks. Children will participate in a special project to create a sensory wall which will feature ceramic tiles.

We’d like to thank the Hine Memorial Fun of the Youngstown Foundation for their generosity in making this space a reality for children at the YMCA to use and enjoy for many years to come.

Youth in Government & Leaders Club Excellence

The Central and Davis Family YMCA facilities are so proud of our youth leaders. Two programs that enrich the lives of our YMCA youth with knowledge, service, and the opportunity to develop their leadership skills are Youth in Government and Leaders Club.

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Leaders Club at the Davis Family YMCA recently held an election for its Student Council. The 5 leadership positions were filled through a process that required the members to give a speech in front of their peers. Newly elected President, Michael McGavin says, “I am very excited to be this year’s President. I think that the YMCA has a strong impact on the community, and I hope to show that it’s not just the Y that cares, it’s our youth as well.” Other positions were filled by Tori Moderalli, Vice President; Jennel Benson, Secretary; Layali Kusuni, Treasurer; and Kaitlin Windt, Devotion Director. Youth and Teen Coordinator, Nikki Murray, said that “many of the Leaders went above and beyond what was expected of them, they dressed to impress and prepared PowerPoint presentations.”

Participants in the Youth in Government group focus on developing a deeper understand about the legislative process while building and strengthening their life skills. Late last year, the Central and Davis Family YMCAs sent 8 promising future leaders to the 2016 Ohio Youth in Government Middle School Conference in Columbus, OH. During the three-day conference, participants served as delegates, drafted, debated and presented bills to Congress to learn about our nation’s balance of powers.

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Central YMCA participants in Youth in Government were Adrianna Quinlan, Genevieve Quinlan, Liam Parker and JP Deem. Davis participants included Fatima Rehman, Emily Rutledge, Alyssa Norton and Nicole DeTorro. The bills that they drafted included topics that ranged from preventing animal abuse to education reform for public schools. The High School Youth in Government YMCA program started up this month and members will attend their own conference in late April of this year.

Camp Fitch Alumni Give Back

nullIf you’ve learned the words to the “Camp Fitch Bunch” song, you won’t be surprised to hear that our alumni come back to camp not only to visit, but also “to keep things going and never take a rest!” This fall, 40 of the Truest and Best came back home to transform a little yellow cottage into a boat house. Camp Fitch purchased this cottage at auction in the summer of 2015. It adjoins our property near the ramp to Lake Erie and has been on our wish list for decades!

The YAWW (Young Alumni Work Weekend) tradition began in 2001 and has occurred almost annually (with the exception of some busy wedding and baby years) every October since then. What started as an opportunity for some staff friends to get together after the summer was over gradually grew into a multi-generational work day to give back to camp. “One of the coolest things about this weekend was talking to all the people that used to work at camp,” first timer Lindsay Weeast told us. “I was able to tell older alum about the changes camp has gone through the past couple of years and I loved listening to their stories about the camp they grew up with.” Doug Sherl, another first time YAWW participant said, “When we signed up, we thought the event was for ANY alumni. As it turns out, our family members were the only people there that were not current or prior staff!” We want the event to grow and encourage alumni of all stripes to come and enjoy a weekend at camp giving back.

The list of improvements completed is a lengthy one and includes:

  • Removing the interior walls of the existing cottage
  • Moving the split rail fence to the new property line
  • Building and installing new electrical service
  • Scraping off the old paint and applying new
  • Removing and splitting some dead and fallen trees from the property
  • Cleaning up the woods and grounds surrounding the cottage
  • Building and installing a beautiful set of custom barn doors

We plan to continue our YAWW for many, many more years to come and hope our alumni (staff or otherwise!) continue to join the tradition.

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Kids Succeed While Taking Tae Kwon Do at the YMCA

abdullahkidstkdThe Central YMCA of Youngstown’s Tae Kwon Do Program is one of many unique and enriching experiences families are able to have at the YMCA. The Abdullah family’s children, Aleeah (9) and Jalen (12), started taking classes during the summer of 2015. Since then, they have been attending classes weekly with instructor, Jim Evans. Evans describes his students as “wonderful children who take the lessons seriously, practice at home, and bring their improvements back to the classroom.”

familypicOver this past summer, the Abdullah family traveled to Orlando, Florida where the kids competed in the AAU Club National Track and Field Competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Aleeah, who competed in numerous events, was able to place for the bronze medal in both discus and shot put. Brother, Jalen, competed in a variety of events as well. The children’s father, Sultan, credits his children’s success in part to the discipline, concentration, physical strength and self-confidence they have gained from Tae Kwon Do at the YMCA.

Instructor, Jim Evans says, “They (students) are often able to improve the quality of their school work because they know how to train and practice not only physically, but with their minds.” Evans spoke of Tae Kwon Do’s potential to decrease aggression, which in turn, leads to a decreased likelihood of bullying. Another benefit is Tae Kwon Do’s ability to help a shy child gain self-confidence.

Classes meet twice per week on Monday and Wednesday. For more information about the class and schedules, you can visit

An Extraordinary Day Camp Counselor Apprentice

Youth Development is a main component of our mission at the Davis Family YMCA in Boardman. We ensure that children have a place to feel safe, have fun, and grow at our Summer Day Camp program. At Day Camp, our goal is to strengthen children’s abilities, try new activities, make new friends and give them courage through learning new skills. Day Camp teaches the four core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. This year our Day Camp program serviced 300 children from across the Mahoning County.

Throughout the course of the summer, we try to not only develop our campers, but also our youth leaders. Our Counselor Apprentice Program is made up of volunteers ages 14-17, that are able to develop leadership and program skills through the summer months.

One Counselor Apprentice (CA) in particular, Michael McGavin, had a passion for leading our campers that was noticed by YMCA Staff, Day Camp Counselors, and the campers themselves. Michael is involved in many of our youth programs at the Y, and has grown into a wonderful leader through them. Youth and Teen Coordinator, Nikki Murray, says “It’s wonderful to have had the opportunity to see a young person be so passionate about helping others and to make sure everyone at camp was having a good time.”

nullMichael speaks highly of his CA Program experience and said, “I truly enjoy volunteering at the YMCA and it has become something I will never forget. This summer I was a Counselor Apprentice for Day Camp. I learned so much in just three months. I am extremely proud to say I have accomplished so much at my age. I plan on using my experiences in the future to make me a better person and helping others. I am proud to say that I volunteer at the Y.”

We count our blessings every day for wonderful leaders like Michael. We plan on helping him grow as a leader in our youth and teen leadership programs, and look forward to him working at the Y someday!

Students Broach Gun Laws at Youth in Government Conference

The significance of passing a bill at the Ohio YMCA Youth in Government conference was not lost on the five students from Rayen Early College (REC), who took part in the three-day event in Columbus on November 22. Nevermind that this was the first year that the YMCA of Youngstown sent a team from the middle school level to the event. For them, this was much more personal.

The students – Aalissia Thomas, Alexes Jackson, Isaiah Ramos, Tyrell Myers, and Jullian Santiago, all 12 to 13 years old – were tasked with researching and writing a bill to be submitted to the mock government conference. Selected from nearly 50 interested students from REC, they joined some 200 other middle school age students from around Ohio at the event. They were accompanied by a team of advisors, including Joselyn L. Parker, the Central Y’s Youth and Teen Director, Penny Wells, a retired teacher from Youngstown City Schools, Kevin Douglas from REC, and Misty Lemon from the Central Y.

null(l-r) Jullian Santiago, Aalissia Thomas, Tyrell Myers, Isaiah Ramos, Joselyn L. Parker, Alexes Jackson

“There was something very special about seeing young people lead in the capacity that they led this weekend,” Parker says. “As first timers, we didn’t know what to expect, but the students exceeded any expectation that we could have ever had. They represented Youngstown incredibly.”

The REC students wrote a bill that would require an Ohio resident to have a gun permit prior to purchasing a firearm; a requirement that currently does not exist in the state. Living in a city that sees its share of gun-related violence, passing this bill was important to the students, and pass it did.

“A lot of these students have stories of family members who were killed in incidents with firearms,” Parker says. “Their feelings are if gun laws in Ohio were tighter, maybe their family members would still be alive.”

Originally a team of six, Parker says one of the students was unable to attend because she had to go to the funeral of a family member who had recently been killed by gun violence.

The proposed legislation stipulated that to obtain a gun permit, the resident must be at least 21 years old, be a permanent Ohio resident, showed no dependency on drugs or alcohol, had no history of chronic mental illness, and must pass an FBI and BCI background check. The students worked on the bill for more than a month before submitting it to Youth in Government.

“It wasn’t just a bill that they were writing up to have a good bill; they were passionate about it,” Parker says. “It was a really powerful week that we had.”

nullSimulating Ohio’s democratic process, students attending Youth in Government act as senators and representatives in writing, debating, and voting on the legislation. Delegates hold committee hearings on the bills before sending them to the floor of the house or senate for voting. If passed, the bill is voted on by the governor, who can sign the bill into law or veto it. Students elect the governor, as well as House speaker and Senate president. REC seventh grader Aalissia Thomas was elected president of the Senate after delivering a speech to the rest of the delegates.

“It was an incredible experience that I was excited to be a part of,” Thomas says. “It was great meeting new people and I’m looking forward to it next year.”

Parker plans to grow the program and bring a larger group next year, she says. While this year was more of a pilot program, she believes the momentum of the program will generate even more interest among students in the community.

“It is important that these students have an understanding of how bills are made and passed, because so often things can be overlooked,” Parker says. “It’s important for students to have a clear understanding of law and how legislation can affect their lives. Our group did a fantastic job and they should be proud of themselves.”

While the students’ bill wasn’t signed into actual Ohio law, legislation first proposed in the Youth in Government program through the years has given birth to more than 300 actual laws in the United States, including:
● Require signal lights at railroad crossings
● Reclaim strip mined land
● Hold 18-year-olds responsible for contracts they sign
● Create the white line on the side of the road
● Establish “right turn on red”
● Establish Special Education
● Provide for driver’s education
● Promote campaign finance reform
● Provide for medical malpractice reform
● Ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting voting rights to 18-year-olds

In April, the YMCA of Youngstown plans to send a group to the Youth in Government conference for high school age students.

Summer Campers Take a Lesson in Fellowship from Commodore Perry

The fleet flags were raised, the lanterns were lit and the musket fired its salute, signaling the start of a summer to remember. Camp Fitch christened this year’s summer camp with a maritime theme, launching campers toward a week of belonging, camaraderie and adventure.

On the first day, campers gathered at Friend Circle amphitheater to the welcoming cheers of the leadership fleet, who conducted the first order of business: assign campers to their “ship,” one of Camp Fitch’s cabents. Once settled in their port or starboard sections, they came together at Friend Circle to induct each cabent into the larger Camp Fitch Fleet by reciting a pledge of commitment to build friendships, grow in spirit and explore new activities.

These were the three tenants of the camp, inspired by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and the story of his victory in the Battle of Lake Erie. The phrase “Don’t Give up the Ship”, which he had on his battle flag, was a motto embraced by this year’s summer camp as a way to encourage the campers to seize the day and to get the most out of their camp experience.


“We introduced the ‘Don’t Give up the Ship’ motto as a way to encourage campers to exercise perseverance and a willingness to step out of their comfort zone,” said the camp’s executive director, Brian Rupe. “This challenge is transferred all week long as a way to encourage campers to make new friends and try new activities. It is also a fun motto for competitive games that create a sense of belonging for the cabent groups and other age groups that they belong to.”

Camp staff committed to three goals for all campers:

  1.   Every camper should feel that Camp Fitch is a place where they belong, as belonging is important in the development of every child
  2.   Every camper will find ways to achieve new skills, as exercising spirit, mind and body helps prevent summer learning loss and builds confidence
  3.   Every camper should build friendships, and camp is an ideal place for young people to develop positive social skills that help them build lasting, healthy relationships

Rupe said he feels confident that these goals were achieved. Over eight weeks in one-week sessions, summer camp welcomed some 1,800 campers ages eight to 16.

Closing ceremonies included awards for achievement, a celebration for new friendships made and a video montage of pictures from each week, as well as traditional camp songs and skits. The last ceremony before bed is a traditional candlelight ceremony, which is a call to action for the campers to make a commitment to grow in Christian character.

“Qualities like responsibility, trust and service are emphasized in the ceremony,” Rupe said. “All of us in the Camp Fitch Bunch have much to celebrate, as we rejoice in God’s love for us and His dynamic presence at camp this summer.”

FasKidz Puts Purpose to Something Kidz Do Naturally

“Thank you for the opportunity you gave Alayna and all the other kids! I think it is a great program for the kiddos.” -Parent
“I wanted to thank you for running such a fantastic running group. Ethan really enjoyed it and looked forward to each run.” -Parent

Kids love to run, even if it’s just running around with no specific purpose. It drives us adults nuts sometimes. OK, a lot of times. But what if we gave it some purpose, some direction and some meaning? What if we gave it some focus and set some goals for that extra energy? What if we didn’t tell them it was just good for them but presented it in such a way that they learn something and had fun doing it?! That’s what FasKidz is all about!

For six weeks starting mid-April, a record number of kids ages 7-13 were part of the Davis Family YMCA’s seventh FasKidz season. The goal was to put some focus to what kids like to do naturally and train for their first running race at the Memorial Mile. They learned about different training methods, how to build a running foundation and what changes take place in their bodies as they train. They learned about proper form, proper foot strike and how to run up and down hills. They learned that runners endure adversity without whining, to set goals for themselves and how to outsmart the competition. Some of it stuck. A lot of it didn’t. It didn’t matter. Without realizing it, they learned it takes discipline to improve, that pushing through when it doesn’t feel good builds character and that accomplishing their goal builds self-confidence. It’s what we, as parents, try to teach them every day! Running has a way of doing that!

On race day, over 40 FasKidz toed the line at the corner of SR 224 and Market St. They were nervous. They had their shoes tied with double knots. They knew better than to get sucked in at the start by those who went out like it was the 100m dash. They’d come back to them soon enough. When it was all over, nearly all of them achieved their time goals. At least eight of them went home with some hardware in their age categories. All of them went home with a feeling of accomplishment. Some even got hooked. A seed was planted that maybe all that running around could be channeled into something productive, something positive, something life long and even life changing. That’s what FasKidz is about! Join us next April!

Y Day Camp – Where Kids Go to Grow

The Davis Family YMCA Day Camp helps about 300 kids have a fun, safe, and enjoyable summer. Every child is special in their own way, and we love every single one of our campers. A staple camper at the Davis facility is a girl named Marisa Schifferli. Marisa has only ever been part of our 11-13 group, but it feels like she’s always been a part of camp!

Marisa has grown a lot as a camper, starting out at camp not really willing to try new things, and now she is the first person to start an activity! She was shy and only talked to the counselors, now she has tons of friends and actively participates in our group activities, her favorite being our pep rally skits! She is an avid enforcer of our core values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility and makes sure the other campers are kept in check when it comes to the rules! She is the type of camper that doesn’t let anything hold her back.

Basketball League Referee Instills Values in Youth

We would like to highlight a very special employee from the Winter Basketball League that just wrapped up. Diane Martino, one of the Central Y’s Select league referees, brings so much more to this league than just her stripes and whistle. As a highly decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, it is in her nature to bring professionalism, dedication and hard work to the games every Sunday. But Diane brings so much more than that; she brings love.

At the end of every Select Basketball League season, teams compete in a tournament to determine a league champion. Before each tournament game, a beautiful ritual takes place led by Diane, of course. She brings in all of the players, speaks to them about fair play, good sportsmanship, and respect and then something truly touching happens: every single player breaks out of the huddle and goes into the crowd to find their parents, relatives, and friends and gives them all a hug and tells them that they “love them.” It is truly a beautiful site and it is EXACTLY what our Central Y youth leagues are all about!

United Way Helps Youngstown Students Experience Unique Fitch Outdoor Learning Environment

The Camp Fitch Outdoor Education program has a two-pronged approach to introducing kids to new life experiences. Our overall program design focuses on making learning more contextual, improving confidence, and reducing the fear of failure when trying new things. First, we create an intentional resident experience that enables kids to interact with peers in new situatinullons such as sharing meals, doing evening activities, during bedtime, and morning wakeup, all in the context of appreciating and exploring the wonder of the natural world. Second, the kids are able to solve problems with limited adult input and acquire skills that lead to a lifetime of creative living. They also get in touch with an environment that their ancestors were far more rooted in.

Unfortunately, as school budgets shrink and mandated requirements increase, it is harder for schools to incorporate a Camp Fitch experience into their curricula. The United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley has come to the rescue of schools in the Youngstown area by heavily subsidizing the fee for a Camp Fitch two-night, three-day experience. A poll of the students who have already participated through this grant from the United Way report great success: 99% of the students enjoyed learning at Fitch, 93% learned or experienced something new during their stay, and 85% feel more confident about trying new things. Teachers from these schools also rave about the value of a Fitch experience and particularly the improvement their students made in relational skills while at camp. All of the teachers agreed that their students gained a greater appreciation of the natural world as a result of their participation in Fitch’s Outdoor Education program.

We are grateful to the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley for helping the kids of the Mahoning Valley thrive in the safe, fun, and wholesome environment that Camp Fitch provides. We are excited about the possibilities that this partnership gives us as we strive to increase our reach.

Preschool Program Helps Kids Blossom

nullThis cutie is named Evan, not Sam. His favorite book is “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. He has been blossoming in our four-year-old Preschool Program, along with his friends, at the Davis Family YMCA. His three hours of class time are filled with free play, circle time, different centers where they enjoy hands on math concepts, write their names and other letters or sight words, do science experiments and discover the world around them, listen to stories, have dramatic play time in the kitchen, and creative art time. He loves gym class, swimming, and field trips as well as the guest speakers who visit from around our community. He has grown so much since he started here in the Fall of 2013. His mom, Katie, applied for and received Financial Assistance through our partnership with the United Way, which enables Evan to continue learning and
growing with us before he heads to elementary school.

If you would like to join us for the 2015-2016 school year, all you have to do is contact Jennifer Pasvanis, Preschool Administrator, at 330-480-5656 ext. 261. You can ask questions, see the facility and get more information on how to reserve your child’s space in one of these classes before summer ends.

A one-time, non-refundable registration fee of $85 will hold your child’s space in either our three-year- old afternoon class (openings available in our Tuesday and Thursday class held from 12:30-3:30 pm), four-year-old afternoon classes (openings available in our MWF class held from 12:30-3:30 pm or 1-4 pm) or the five-year-old class (openings available in our M-F classes held from 9 am–1 pm).

There are still United Way scholarships left for these classes. Applications for assistance are available at our service desk or online at

Horses at Camp Fitch are Changing Lives

Horses are making a big impact at the new Centofanti Equestrian Center and the Hartman Outdoor Equestrian Area.

nullThis winter, one of the Youngstown City Schools attended Camp Fitch thanks to the generous support of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. For the very first time, students were grooming, petting and riding the gentle giants of Camp Fitch. Michael, a participating student, had a reputation in the classroom for being disruptive and lacking focus for learning. While in the new stable facility, he went from horse to horse, helping to feed, groom and care for his new found friends. Michael’s focus was clear, his attitude outstanding and his school principal and teacher watched in amazement at the transformation. They were able to see Michael in a new light as he discovered a reason to want to learn. This is what the Camp Fitch outdoor learning experience is about. All of us have different learning styles, and the Fitch experience provides a much needed opportunity to try new things, gain different perspectives and be exposed to a unique environment that can stimulate learning.

The new Outrider program, scheduled to begin this summer, will enhance personal development through equestrian programs. Girls ages 11-15 will develop riding skills, learn about horse care and all that it takes to befriend these amazing creatures. This opportunity builds self-esteem and confidence, and teaches caring and responsibility while providing tons of fun and a great adventure. Equestrian coordinator, Adrienne Rupe is a certified instructor and has prepared an outstanding summer program. Each session is one week long. To register, visit the Camp Fitch website at or call 1-877-863-4824.

All Third Graders Learn to Swim

Drowning is the 4th leading cause of death in children. The drowning rate for minorities is 3X that of their peers because of lack of access to pools and swim lessons.

A new program at the Central YMCA, with a grant provided by the United Way, will help break the cycle of non-swimmers in Youngstown and make sure children are safe and active through swimming. In this program, all third graders in Youngstown City Schools will learn water safety skills that can save lives, enhance or learn new swim techniques and develop confidence in the water, while enjoying fun pool activities and water sports.

“Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity for children and adults alike, and it’s an easy way to stay physically active and improve strength, flexibility and stamina,” says Tara Bishop, Aquatic Director of the Central YMCA. “The YMCA of Youngstown is committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to swim and learn water safety practices.”

As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, the Y has been a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety for more than 100 years. To learn more about this and other swim programs at the Central Y, please contact Tara Bishop at 330-744-8411.

Areas of Focus

Child Care – Safe, nurturing environment for children to learn, grow and develop social skills.

Education & Leadership – Knowledge, character development, guidance and encouragement to help youth develop and realize their potential.

Swim, Sports & Play – Positive, fun activities that build athletic, social and interpersonal skills.

Camp – Exciting, safe community for young people to explore the outdoors, build self-esteem, develop interpersonal skills and make lasting friendships and memories.

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