Confidence Through Achievement - Youth Institute
Congratulations, Youth Institute Graduates!
“Youth Institute helps us become new, skilled people—people we are proud of."
This is just one of the many positive sentiments shared by teens in the Whatcom Family YMCA’s brand new college- and career-readiness program, Youth Institute.
August 3rd was a memorable day for the Whatcom Family YMCA as our inaugural class of Youth Institute participants graduated. This intensive seven-week program culminated with ten Whatcom County teens presenting their video productions, which they created during the the summer, to their families and Y staff. Each also received $500 as a reward for successfully completing the program. This incentive encouraged participants to remain active and engaged and provided them, and their families, with money to pay for school year expenses such as clothes and supplies.
Creating a brighter future for those teens who need us most.
Having been established and operated successfully for 17 years at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, CA, Youth Institute is now spreading across the country, including to young people in our own community. This free, year-round program focuses on serving teens in need of academic or emotional support and helps them build character, develop life skills, and master technology to prepare them for the road ahead. Low-income youth, those falling behind in school, and those with no summer plans or opportunities are given preference in the application process.
Each day of the summer portion of the program, Youth Institute exposes students to new locations, opportunities, and people in their community. It kicks off with a week-long wilderness retreat, followed by 6 weeks of technology- and character-focused programming. Thanks to key partnerships with several local institutions (Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham Makerspace, and East Whatcom Regional Resource Center), participants gained valuable hands-on experience.
Though the program’s summer end date coincides with graduation, Youth Institute will continue to meet year round twice a month throughout the school year. This gives participants the opportunity to stay in touch with friends and have mentors help them with difficult homework, emotional life challenges, college preparation, and/or job searching. Furthermore, alumni will become eligible for a position as a youth mentor for the next year’s cohort of participants. Teens who continually participate as a youth mentor will be eligible to receive a $1,000 college scholarship at the end of their senior year of high school.
There is no doubt Youth Institute’s focused approach is likely to be life-changing and have a profound impact on the trajectory of these young peoples' lives. As one participant shared, this new program is already succeeding in engaging kids and keeping them on the right path:
“I want to accomplish something with my life, and this program will help me learn skills to do it.”