The Greater Carbondale YMCA is proud to partner with the Pennsylvania State Alliance of YMCAs in promoting the 7th Grade Membership Initiative, a program that provides a free one-year membership to all 7th graders in the area. A $20 registration fee is required to participate in the program, but the usual monthly membership fee is waived for participants.

As children begin to face the challenges of adolescence, they are more likely to begin distancing themselves from formal organizations, friends, and family, and to experiment with unhealthy and even illegal behaviors. The 7th Grade Membership Initiative is an opportunity for the YMCA to engage with, cultivate, and connect with preteens and young teenagers at a time that is most crucial to their development.

Through the generous support of local funders, the YMCA is able to offer additional programming specifically for 7th graders. A $15,549 grant from the Moses Taylor Foundation has enabled the Y to hire a program coordinator who will organize special events and gatherings, and who will act as a liaison between the youth, their schools, and the YMCA to boost participation in the program.

Furthermore, students participating in the program will have the opportunity to complete junior lifeguarding and babysitting certifications (including CPR and first aid training). These certification courses, which teach critically important life skills, will be scheduled early in 2018.

“Wednesday nights will be swimming with the new inflatables. They can also participate in the youth athletic enhancement class. Other gatherings will include dodgeball, pickleball, sport wall, and various other sports. They can volunteer for YMCA events with the Teen Leaders,” explained Heather Murphy, the Y’s financial development director.

She added, “Any 7th grader that is 12 or older is also able to use their membership to ‘hang out’ at the YMCA to play in the gyms, play ping pong, and take part in open swim.”

Additional funding of more than $4,000 from the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties will enable the YMCA wellness staff to offer “BaM! – Body and Mind Connection”. This monthly program will give participants the chance to gather for an activity and a snack, and will allow them to learn about wellness topics and the impact of healthy choices. BaM! will address topics such as stress reduction, nutrition, preventing illness, exercise, and wellness, thus setting the stage for participants to develop healthy habits as they enter their teenage years.

The Greater Carbondale YMCA has offered the 7th Grade Membership Initiative program for several years, but the grants recently received by the Y allow them to offer more opportunities this year. So far around 40 students have signed up for the program, and Mrs. Murphy hopes to double that number.

Participants enjoy the program and the opportunities for socializing and learning that it gives them. “I love it,” said Mia Cornall, a 7th grade student in the Lakeland school district. “More kids should come because it’s a lot of fun. You get to be with friends and you get to learn about health and fitness.”

Students may register for this program anytime during their 7th grade year. Interested students should contact the Greater Carbondale YMCA at (570) 282-2210 for more information or stop by the YMCA member services desk for an application.