Y Construction Academy Provides Unique Learning for Wilson Middle Schoolers

wilson middle schoolers at the site of the new Foundation YMCA during Construction Academy Program

When the new Foundation YMCA opens in Wilson late this summer, a group of middle schoolers will know they played a role in designing spaces for their peers. They have been part of the Wilson Family Y’s Middle School After School (MSAS) Construction Academy, offered in partnership with construction manager, Balfour Beatty - Holt Brothers Joint Venture, and funded by the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson.

“The Construction Academy provides a STEM focus and also ties in social emotional learning (SEL),” said Edwina Lucas, the Y’s Middle School After School Executive Director. “The students have done so many activities working together as teams on different projects. One of the really neat things about this program is that it checks so many boxes: positive role models, peer interaction, team- and relationship-building, and learning about STEM. That one program can do so much for kids gets me super excited.”

“Working with the students from the Construction Academy has been incredibly rewarding not only for the middle schoolers of Wilson but for our team as well. These kids are dedicated, smart, funny and incredibly curious, and we have enjoyed teaching them about STEM using the Wilson YMCA construction site as a platform for learning. The Balfour Beatty-Holt Brothers Joint Venture views the monthly programs as an opportunity to enrich their futures, and we take great care in developing content that will be educational but fun. Playing even a small role in molding these young minds continues to be one of the highlights of our work in Wilson.”  

Parents and students alike value the time spent at the Construction Academy. “As a kid in this program, you explore different careers and learn something different every time. We come here once a month, and my son always looks forward to it. He learns something new, like today he learned about resume writing,” according to one middle schooler’s mother.

Designing New Youth Programs

The Construction Academy is an introduction to the new hands-on middle school after school programming that will be featured at the new Foundation Y when it opens. With input from students at the middle schools in Wilson, Lucas is designing programming in five core areas: academia, arts/humanities, college/careers, health and wellness and STEM. 

Students will be able to design their own schedule for each 10-week afterschool session in the fall, winter and spring, Lucas said, choosing to focus on one area, or any combination of the programs offered. The Y is partnering with numerous local businesses and organizations who all share a goal of creating opportunities for youth to discover their strengths and explore their passions in safe, nurturing environments.

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson made a bold commitment in 2018 to build a brighter future for youth by providing $25 million in grant funding for a Middle School After School program and the new Foundation YMCA facility.  The Wilson YMCA was selected as their partner to design, build and sustain the after school program in the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson’s first strategic grant.  The funding also includes providing after school transportation from all the six middle schools in Wilson to the Y or to different locations in the community for the unique programs designed for 11- to 14-year-olds as well as operational funding for three years.

“We have a lot of community partners offering the expertise in what they do to expose children to different opportunities. A local pastry shop, the health department, the local newspaper is doing a class, the library is involved, and so on. It’s awesome to see community come on board to offer what they do to enrich kids,” Lucas said.