YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly launched its inaugural Y Achievers Summit in August, hosting about 165 youth and staff from 23 associations in the United States and Canada.
“As we were preparing to celebrate the Leaders School’s centennial at Blue Ridge, we were talking about the fact that the Achievers program is a huge program nationally. But there had never been a national gathering of these youth and the staff who work with them,” said Greg Hall, VP of Mission Impact for Blue Ridge Assembly.
Hall and a small committee of Y leaders from around the country set to work on planning the first Summit to enable Y Achievers to connect and interact with each other. He also noted that more than 25 Y staff leaders attended for professional development. “It was a conference within a conference for Y staff. Those who ran Achievers programs were among the first Covid casualties, and a lot of Ys that ran great Achievers program had to hire new staff. They were able to spend four days here learning how to run the program and spending time with teens who participate,” Hall added. He noted that usually staff are bringing youth with them, but in this case, they were able to attend solely to learn how to run the program.
Y Achievers helps high school students of varying racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds improve academic performance, develop a sense of self, build character and confidence, and explore college and career opportunities. Hall said that the Achievers is focused on life skills and whole development of a teenager, and the Planning Committee was looking to “plus that” at this national conference.
During the Summit, youth chose life skills workshops to attend each morning, focused on college preparation, civic engagement, and career/life dreams, and they worked on personal growth and challenges in the afternoons, enjoying Blue Ridge’s ropes courses and team-building opportunities.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Plans for 2023 are already underway. NC Ys with Achievers programs, or those looking to start an Achievers program, save the date for July 30-August 3, 2023. The committee is planning program/professional development opportunities for staff again next year as well.
Registration will open December 1, 2022. Hall said Ys may be able to tap into unspent grant or program funds, or raise funds through Annual Campaigns, to support youth and staff attendance. More details will follow, however, the estimated registration will be $350/person.