Back to Blogs
9m read

YSF’s Commitment to Black Young Men of Color

The YMCA of San Franciso is part of a National Y-movement to Empower the Lives of Black Youth in our communities. This month we are uplifting the work and impact of our various youth programs and how they support Black youth and their families in building a sustainable future together where they can Be, Belong, Become.

At the Y, we believe that every young person deserves equitable access to opportunities that support their growth and future success. Sadly, we know this is not a reality for many youth in our communities, especially boys and young men of color, due to deeply rooted systemic barriers.

The Y is working to change this reality by developing programs and strategies that remove systemic barriers, provide relevant services and support systems, and create nurturing environments that promote confidence and growth

Activated in 2018, the YMCA Boys and Young Me of Color (BYMOC) strategy targets boys and young men of color ages 11-17. The strategy builds pathways to success to help them reach their full potential through an emphasis on education, college and career readiness, character development, belonging and community building, and health and well-being.

BYMOC strategies were integrated into our current Beacon Programming for a year with several goals that were identified and reported.

Four Key Program Goals 

  • 70% of BYMOC will access high quality, nurturing and more culturally responsive neighborhood environments 

  • 75% of BYMOC will have stabilized and improved grades by reducing suspensions and improving school attendance 

  • 100% of BYMOC will have completed pre-/post-assessment for social-emotional learning 

  • 75% by BYMOC will increase access to high-quality, post-secondary education and career ready pathways 

Of the 233 students enrolled in MLK Beacon: 

  • 54% are male 

  • 97% are English learners 

  • Average daily attendance 129.90 

With this, we integrated the strategy into three programs within our MLK Beacon Program for a year. We saw how much they supported our youth in creating a space and opportunity to grow, become leaders, innovate themselves, and create new experiences.

MLK Beacon

YSF partners with the San Francisco Beacon Initiative to transform public schools into youth and family-centered places of learning. Our program offers homework support and various enrichments for youth that range from STEAM to Y Bike.

Within MLK Beacon, BYMOC strategies were integrated into the Black Student Union, Boys 2 Men, and Flag Football programming.

Here’s a closer look at each of our programs and how they have made an impact: 

Black Student Union

Located at MLK Middle School, the Black Student Union creates diverse activities for the student body, raises cultural awareness at the school, and promotes a more positive image of Black students through community building, creating a safe space, exploring Black history and culture, inviting guest speakers, and planning events and field trips. 

Boys 2 Men

Boys 2 Men is an invitation-only lunch group that intentionally focuses on Black and Latinx community building through restorative justice, creating a safe space, confidentiality, and honest and real conversations with our youth.

Flag Football

The SF Citywide Flag Football League is a collaboration with different after school programs at MLK Middle School. The program helps youth with high school readiness and college awareness, case management, 6th period elective homework support, weekly progress reports and parent communication, recreation and fitness, and collaborations with JCYC College Access Programs.

BYMOC Strategies Are Making A Positive Impact

Since the integration of BYMOC into our existing Y programs, we have seen an incredible impact on our youth, reducing truancy in 6th, 7th, and 8th graders struggling between 50-90% in absences during their school year. One of the incentives is that students are offered extracurricular activities based on attendance, including but not limited to, flag football. 

Recently, we reached out to Drew Kodelja, Senior Director of Youth Programs, to learn more about the amazing collegiate trip our Flag Football program went on and how important it was for our youth.

Here’s the story that Drew and his team shared:

In 2023, John Michael Williams decided to organize a unique college tour experience for MLK’s flag football team. This trip was sustained through BYMOC program funds received from Y-USA to provide a culminating activity for the students engaged in BYMOC through a specific activity. 

Many of our Black and brown students have never experienced stepping foot on a prestigious college campus. In fact, many students never got an opportunity to travel outside of the Bay Area. This is why John Michael wanted them to experience new places that would allow them to see the different possibilities their future could hold.

On our LA trip, students got to meet a former student from the Bayview community who explained her experience of getting into UCLA. She gave the students a personal tour and was able to excite them about college by giving her testimony as a student-athlete. She gave them a taste of what life would be like on a college campus by letting them tour her dorm room, walk through the different facilities provided, and eat at the school cafeteria. Our students were shocked at the size of UCLA and all the different things the university provided.

This year, we are returning to LA to tour USC. Students have started fundraising to expand the number of activities planned out. Our goal is to continue this as an annual trip and to eventually grow the program to expose our students to all types of universities across the country.

Our Many Programs

We hope that this college tour experience will expand to include more boys and young men of color through our continued efforts to meet the four key metrics of BYMOC. In the years to come, we will have a robust group of youth, families, staff and volunteers engaging in this college readiness and fostering results that meet the goals of BYMOC and YSF youth development outcomes. 

While BYMOC and MLK Beacon are just a few of the many youth programs and services that we have, we offer other programs that also impact other young men of color. This will be the first blog in our series that will showcase and explore how we support our youth in reaching their fullest potential so that they show up not only for themselves but also for their communities. To learn more about our MLK Beacon programs, visit