“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.

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 teens in our own Whatcom County community. By targeting at-risk high school students, Youth Institute will create a brighter future for those teens who need us most.

The Whatcom Y’s YI is to be divided into two components: Summer Youth Institute and year-round Afterschool Youth Institute.


Summer Youth Institute (SYI)

This summer program will run for seven-weeks.


Challenge yourself! Learn valuable skills, both academic and professional. Learn how to participate in digital media arts, create collective group projects, work on creative writing skills, and embrace a peer-to-peer collaborative environment. 

We will create meaningful interactions with our local community through volunteer opportunities. There will be numerous chances for teens to step into leadership roles during the Summer, giving them the ability to build communication, conflict-resolution, and critical-thinking skills. 

We work towards having a fun, energetic, and welcoming environment for all who choose to participate. A stipend will be given to all participants; requirements are that participants attend programming as scheduled (no unexcused absences) and that participants are fully involved in group projects and activities. 

Staff will be present to not just mentor teens throughout the day, but also provide support on projects, aid in problem-solving strategies, facilitate team-building activities, and encourage a safe and motivational working environment. In addition, staff will facilitate activities outside of the classroom, such as nature walks, bike rides, beach trips, and other activities. 

Summer 2020 Program Info:

Dates: July 7 - August 23

Days: Monday-Thursday

Times: 10:00am-4:00pm


After School Youth Institute (AYI)

Once participants graduate from the summer portion of Youth Institute, Y staff encourages them to continue the program and meet after school twice per month. Here, they will receive help searching for jobs, writing resumes and can practice interviewing in addition to receiving academic and emotional support. 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 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:


“Not only do I want to learn, but I also want to grow as a person. I have already grown slightly as a person . . . I learned that if I just be myself people will like me. I am usually very shy, but I learned I don’t have to be shy, at least not here . . . I want to learn to control my thoughts and emotions better… to sum it up, I want to learn useful skills. I want to accomplish something with my life, and this program will help me learn skills to do it.”

—2018 Youth Institute participant


For more information, contact Jillian Hardy,