Teens Flock to the YMCA

Free Summer Program Draws Huge Response

August 2, 2018

HIGH POINT — The YMCA of High Point got more than expected by offering its first-ever free summer membership for teenagers.

YMCA leaders had budgeted to add about 300 new teen members for the summer, but were pleased when their offer drew about 100 more than expected, said Lynn Lomax, president/CEO of the YMCA of High Point.

Just over 280 teens participated through the program at the Hartley Family YMCA this summer, while the smaller Carl Chavis Y drew about 40 teenagers and the Grubb Family branch served about 80 teens.

"It's been very exciting in terms of the number, but it's bigger than the number for us because just providing a building is not where we want our focus to be," Lomax said. "We want our focus to be on the experience of developing young people." Support from the local High Point YMCA Foundation covered the $40,000 expense of additional staffing, field trips and other miscellaneous costs. That allowed any teenager who wanted to be part of the program to participate at no cost. YMCA leaders hope to continue some form of the free teen memberships during the school year, possible with the teenagers participating on the weekends or holidays rather than every day.

"I don't want to lost momentum," Lomax said. "Our hope now is to continue in the fall. We're building a plane while we're flying. We're listening and hearing from the young people what they want."

Having his first chance to tour the NC State University campus in Raleigh is one of the opportunities 17-year-old Joshua Baskin appreciated as one of the teenage summer Y members. The rising senior at Kearns Academy also enjoyed playing basketball, working out and going to the pool and movies while making new friends.

"I had never heard of the Y having free memberships, so it was nice of them, having kids coming up there to have fun instead of just being out in the heat," Baskin said. "So that was a great opportunity."

Sheena Perdiz, 14, said having a free Y membership this summer changed her life because she made a lot of new friends.

"I didn't have that many friends because I'm really shy," said Perdiz, a rising freshman at East Forsyth High School who has lived in Kernersville most of her life. "We watched movies. We talked a lot to each other and we hang around the pool a lot."

Although the teens were able to just come in a play basketball in the gym, YMCA leaders took efforts to provide instruction on expectations for etiquette and manners in using the facility. A few teenagers who didn't follow those rules were asked to leave, but for the most part the expectations were well received, he said.

Parents also were very supportive. 

"Our other fear was that we didn't want this just to become drop-off for all day care," Lomax said. "This is creating an experience for young people."

The YMCA employs more than 250 college and high school students every summer. Lomax said the free membership program provided a good chance to recruit possible YMCA staff members. For example, if young people love to swim and show a talent with helping others, the YMCA can direct them into a free lifesaving class."

"This is about a community effort if we can bring other partners into it," Lomax said. "We don't need to be pulling against each other. We should be pulling in the same direction, not competing. There are plenty of young people to go around. I know 400 is a small percentage, but it is a start."

Lomax said he hopes to again implement the free membership program next summer.