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Finding Belonging at the Y

My name is James Padilla. I am the site coordinator for Jean Parker Elementary School, and this will be my third year working with the Chinatown YMCA. I want to share my story about why the Y has meant so much to me since I started working here. This organization has allowed me to grow not only as a leader in the community but also as a leader in my own life. Growing up, I didn't get that sense of belonging that a young kid needs and so, I was on the search for something or somewhere that made me feel welcomed and appreciated. I started working with kids at the age of seventeen and since then, I have worn many different caps in many different communities, and while I felt a sense of happiness knowing I had found my passion I still didn't have the sense that I was meant to stay there. But then I found Chinatown Y. From the first dayI felt welcomed. They took me in and trained me, picked me up when I was down, were patient and understanding, and made me feel appreciated. Now, a few years later, I can finally say that I have found a group of individuals, in the Jean Parker and Chinatown YMCA community, that I consider my family.

This sense of belonging is what I try to bring to Jean Parker every day. My goal is to provide a program that makes the students and families that attend feel a sense of pride - that they now have a place to go to in which they feel safe and cared for, a place where they can be given the tools they need to become whatever they dream of. With the help of the Y, the support they have given me, and my own experiences, I can see that vision taking place when I go to Jean Parker: through the smiles of the students and their laughter, through the bond between the staff and families, and through the hard times when they need our support the most. The YMCA of San Francisco has given me a platform to become a leader and make a difference in the community and the lives of the students and families we serve.

I am proud to work here, and I am proud to be part of something bigger.

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