175 Years of Uplifting Youth
This summer, the global YMCA movement gathered in London, England (the birthplace of the Y), to celebrate 175 years of uplifting youth and strengthening the foundations of communities around the globe. The YMCA of San Francisco brought a cohort of 22 young leaders to join 3,000 others from the global YMCA community. Our San Francisco leaders facilitated four presentations that were close to their hearts on civic engagement, queer identity, and allyship, environmental justice, and the transformative power of art.
Here are a few reflections from our leaders’ time across the pond at Y175.
Megan, Director of Youth and Teen Programs
“Y175 was a reminder both of the immense scope of the YMCA’s work, and the incredible work being done close to home. One of the highlights for me was undoubtedly presenting - the culmination of a year of planning, prep, and hard work was over and being celebrated before I could believe it. Giving a presentation and sharing knowledge and experience was something I was looking forward to, and I knew it would be interesting, but what I had not anticipated was hearing the outpouring of stories from an international audience were both similar and so different than my own.
What really struck me was the tone; one that underscored a need for further connection. For many of the participants, having a space to discuss Queer Culture and allyship and the concept of Y For All created a safe place for staff, members, and program participants to just be themselves. The momentum in those moments was tremendous, and the importance of continuing it was evident by the emotions expressed by everyone, whether to the entire group or within their smaller groups. That connectivity was electric, and with it came the hope of reconvening at the next such conference with a more clear path towards growth and support. These clear examples erally showed how we are a Y For All.”- Megan, Shih Yu Lang Central
Cecilia, Director of Administration & Financial Development
“It was absolutely amazing to hear about the impact young people are making across the globe. Especially in the field of mental health, which is my deepest, truest passion. I attended a session where a Y staff from Australia shared the program he created to improve the mental well-being of youth through small group personal training. I went to another session about the #IAMWHOLE campaign to combat mental health stigma across YMCA England and beyond. I got to listen to a panel of mental health workers from different countries discuss what self-care looks like (hint: it’s not always rainbows and butterflies).
Many of our plenary speakers talked about their relationships with mental health and the work they’re doing to give others a platform to share their stories. All of these experiences helped me understand and appreciate mental health from a global lens. I was in awe of what young people across the Y movement are doing to help others feel more connected and less alone in their struggles.”-Cecilia, Richmond District YMCA
Ayah, John Muir Community School Beacon Site Coordinator
“I began my Y175 journey unconventionally, invested in a heart warming conversation with a 17 year old YMCA volunteer from Buffalo, New York. We discussed what we hoped to gain from the conference, what we wanted to bring back home and we even laughed at how sweaty our palms were out of pure nervousness from what was yet to come...The commonalities seen through this short conversation put in perspective this random connection with a random teenager, who volunteers at another random YMCA 3000 miles away from me and that within all this “randomness” there is this common thread that binds all who have been impacted by the Y, the [desire] to change and impact the world for good. “-Ayah, Buchanan YMCA
A panel of the San Francisco Y175 delegates, nicknamed The Londoniers, shared their experiences at the YMCA of San Francisco’s September board meeting. We’re excited to see how these leaders’ global experiences will enrich their work with the young people and families we serve in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties.