(This post was contributed by Latitia McCree, vice president of arts, youth development, and community initiatives for the YMCA of Metro Detroit).
In the 9th grade Sparkle barely went to school. She skipped classes so she could hang out with her friends who just wanted to have fun. She needed an escape from her urban soap opera, and thought parties and socializing would bring her joy. Her home life was completely unmoored, moving from one family member or friend’s house to the next. As she describes herself, “I was truly immature and irresponsible…I had major family issues.”
Like many urban teens, she was not getting along with her mother and was living in an environment surrounded by sex, drugs and alcohol. In short, she was surrounded by a generation who were intoxicating themselves to mask their pain and feelings of hopelessness.
One day while hanging out with her friends, she really took a look at their lives and realized she wanted more. “I did not feel comfortable with myself anymore. I was seeing people whose lives were much worse than mine; I knew I wanted to go to school and to make something of myself.”
Sparkle really did not know how to even begin her life again. But as the old adage goes, when the student is ready the teacher will come.
The YMCA sent out a mass mailing inviting Detroit teens to join the YMCA Future Professionals. Sparkle got the letter and immediately called the Y. Over the past nearly three years Sparkle has truly sparkled at the Y. She has attended numerous college tours, conducted a host of community service projects, attended dozens of career and college prep workshops and built relationships with caring adults. She secured her first job with YMCA assistance. Today Sparkle is a senior at the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. She has a cumulative GPA of 3.5. She aspires to be a clinical psychologist, has been accepted into several universities and has been awarded the Bowling Green Success Scholarship.
The YMCA Future Professionals program is a part of a 30 year old YMCA movement commonly called Minority Achievers. The primary focus is to connect urban youth with working professionals to challenge and support their matriculation and graduation from high school and pursuit of post-secondary degree attainment, in the hope that these young people become working professionals and productive citizens in their communities.
On May 22 at noon, at the Boll Family YMCA, the Y will be celebrating high school seniors who, like Sparkle have overcome an array of obstacles but will be going to college in the fall of 2012. In addition, we will be inducting new Adult Achievers or volunteers to challenge and coach other youth involved with the YMCA to ensure their success.
The YMCA would like 30 or more companies to support Y Achiever’s work by making a commitment to nominate an employee to volunteer and nurture our youth and by making a financial gift of $2012, in commemoration of 2012 being the 32 Achiever’s Celebration.