Stop the Violence: YMCA offers more programs to keep kids off streets

April 12, 2013 3:42:32 PM PDT
The YMCA has long held the reputation as the place for ''gym and swim,'' but in order to meet the needs of various communities, the organization is offering more options to keep kids off the streets.

They're even adding a bit of culture to the programs.

At Libby Middle School in the Englewood neighborhood, students have access to five performing arts opportunities during the school day, as well as after school. Their latest project involves a big production of the stage play "Fame."

The program is funded and staffed by the YMCA as part of its urban education initiatives.

"Englewood, Austin, Ashburn, Chicago Lawn. . . So we're in multiple communities and we provide out-of-school programming for children in underserved communities," said Dawana Williamson, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Students say the programming is what sets their school apart.

"Dance, drama, acting, singing, drumline. . . We do Scholastic Bowl coming up. We do lots of things that I know other schools don't do," said Anesa Daniels, eighth grader.

"It keeps me in a good situation like off the street and I get to do good activities," said Yateece Johnson, eighth grader.

The YMCA also supports academic enrichment. Students are sharpening their skills for a quiz bowl called the Scholastic Spectacular. They will compete against teams from 14 other Chicago Public Schools.

"I like the Scholastic Bowl because ever since last year I also competed in the math council team in the CNA building downtown ever since then, I like competing," said J-Veun Brimmer, eighth grader.

The school's principal, Kurt Jones, says the YMCA's support of after school activities not only enhances academics, it also helps to keep students safe.

"We can match suburban schools in programming. We can match North Side schools with different demographics in what we offer kids. And we can show minority kids what equality should be. . . We are open until 6:15. It's exhausting, but it's a lot better than kicking them out at 3 in the afternooon when the violence is at its peak," said Jones.

Students will compete in the final round of the YMCA's Scholastic Spectacular on April 25th at the Chicago History Museum. Winners will receive a medal and a team trophy.