The Riverside YMCA “Village Project”
The Riverside YMCA Village Project was committed to creating sustainable social and healthful opportunities for the welfare and success of our immediate community, Families and Youth. Through the empowerment of our Community, the Village Project strived to create and foster positive relationships between our neighborhoods, schools, businesses, service organizations, churches and government organizations to essentially grow and strengthen a whole community. We will be creative, tireless and fearless in our efforts to build a program of immeasurable value to our community. Even though the Riverside YMCA is no more, Riverside Youth Judo has continued to support the great students in that program. Below is the summary of what made the Village Project Great
During school year 2010/2011 a sizable number of children, typically numbering 100 or more, would walk through the parking lot of the YMCA of Riverside City and County. Located at 4020 Jefferson, the YMCA has been present in this community since 1968, more significantly at times but up until recently, not so much. While the typical presence of children walking through the parking lot did not present a major issue, rather it presented the YMCA an opportunity — an opportunity to serve the community. Unfortunately, on a few occasions, lasting up to weeks at times, the need for a solution became even clearer. School Administration, the YMCA, Riverside Police Department and the community as a whole were witness to a surging growth in the number of teens in the area, all highly charged in a growing number of off campus fights that were staged in the streets around the school and the YMCA. Although fights involving high school teens is not as rare is we would like, what made these incidents so troubling was the intensity, the involvement of a gang element and the posting of these fights on various internet sites such as YouTube.
The Infancy of Collaboration
On one afternoon, a YMCA representative had the opportunity to speak with a Riverside Police Officer on one of these streets and what resulted, was the beginning of a collaboration that seeks to alleviate the problem. “The Village”, because it takes a village to raise a child, brought together Ramona High School Administration, the YMCA and the Riverside Police department in an effort to engage a concerned City and local community in creating a long term, proactive solution. On May 25th, 2011 a Riverside City Councilman, Riverside Police Officers, representatives from the YMCA, Ramona High School Administrators, motivated business owners and local neighborhood watch members came together in what was the first meeting of “The Village.”
The first questioned asked was “Who are we targeting or who needs help?” The obvious answer is “at risk youth.” However, in trying to identify exactly who is the at risk youth, an interesting point was made, “All youth are at risk!” When “The Village” realized that our efforts needed to reach a much larger number of youth, the ideas of how to reach and more importantly, impact the youth, were discussed. Among those was a plan to develop a martial arts program, using the talents of local studio owners and police officers. In the weeks leading up to this meeting the YMCA had the opportunity to speak with the senior class of Ramona High School. In short time a list was filled with a highly interested group of youth numbering almost 100 strong, all echoing similar statements of “If the YMCA offers it, Iâ€™ll attend.” Mind you, this was just the senior class. Additional needs included tutoring, primarily for ESL students, fitness and well-being and Hip Hop dance classes; all issues that impact our youth in significant ways. But as our community pointed out, the problem must be addressed by serving the local families as well. What can the YMCA do for the families? The risks of our children are sometimes sown in the soil of the homes that they live. Risks becomes real when children are given little light of a concerned and proactive community. If a community is to bear fruit from a healthy child, it must be willing to bear the burden of helping children in their homes. The YMCA more than ever, in its mission, is concerned and prepared to spear head this revelation. For youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the YMCA must become a leader in the community by bringing people together. To provide a safe Riverside, the Riverside Police Department must continue to join hands with its community to find proactive solutions. The YMCA must continue to impact or families in healthful ways and Ramona High School must continue to educate and enrich the lives of students so that they realize that they too can positively impact their community and world. Through a renewed mission for youth development, for healthy living and for social responsibility, the YMCA will strive to be the beacon that draws a community together for the benefit of the community. This, in essence, is “The Village.”
What has been done?
1. The YMCA of Riverside City and County committed the main branch, at 4020 Jefferson, to offer programs and services to the community. Already, The YMCA started a family night event that began in early June, 2011. The event, on Friday nights from 6pm to 9pm, offered families in the community a chance to use the facility to swim and recreate. In addition, family oriented games such as tug-o-war, three legged races, water balloon toss were offered. Each night the YMCA served dinner at a very low cost. By summer’s end, the regular attendance had reach over 100 people. On August 2nd, 2011 the YMCA hosted the National Night Out event that was attended by over 400 people. The event was co-sponsored and well attended by the Riverside Police Department, City officials, the Kiwanis club, local families and neighborhood watch leaders. The event also played host to a Cops vs Kids basketball game that saw over 300 spectators. The YMCA also sponsored youth nights throughout the summer and offered memberships to local youth to allow them the opportunity to use the facility.
2. The Riverside Police Department has committed resources and manpower to supervise and ensure safety at all YMCA events. Officers have collaborated on all levels of program development and continue to offer resources and help in all future programs and services. The Riverside Police department co-hosted the National Night out event that could not have been accomplished if not for their involvement.
3. Riverside Police Officers and community members have committed to volunteer as instructors and trainers in a Martial Arts Program that is proposed to run all year long — The primary class scheduled is a Traditional Judo program.
4. Local Neighborhood Watch groups meet here at the YMCA for the first time in memory. Neighborhoods watch meetings have grown in size since this time, impacting and involving more families than ever.
5. The Village Youth Program started in school year 2011/2012 and by March of 2012 reached over 200 hundred high school aged kids, serving 40-50 a day. In April the program started its tutoring service, engaging volunteers and other service groups in the cause.
6. Girl’s hygiene and beauty consultation program formed when the need for such help was noticed. As a result, girls that have had little or no mentoring, in their home or at school, have connected with YMCA employees that themselves, or through community support, have begun to mentor these girls to help increase their pride and confidence. In April 2012, the group sponsored a prom night preparation event for 5 kids. On the afternoon before the special needs prom, 5 kids had their hair done, make up applied and clothing altered by professionals in their field. They were served a dinner and driven, by YMCA drivers in YMCA vans, to their event. The same event is being planned for as many as 100 kids for the regular Ramona High school prom in May 2012.
Although the program will target all youth, ages 13-19, the primary target will be youth in a specific category of “at-risk” youth. While we expect that the program can serve as many as 100 youth a day, we anticipate the development of additional services and programs to accommodate the many youth that will be in need. Additional resources will need to be identified to meet the needs and interests of the anticipated growth in attendees. Initially and as the program grows, the emphasis will continue to lie with youth that meet the criteria based on socio – economic markers as well as other criteria that place a child in a specific category that is consistent with a government defined “at risk youth.” Developing this list of high priority youth will be accomplished through:
1. Identification through Ramona High School Administration – Ramona High School is a title one school, serving youth that meet this standard. Administration will aid in identifying these kids and ensuring that the Village serves these youth as a priority.
2. Applications for Village participation will identify youth in the category of “at Risk.”
3. Law enforcement is already a primary/founding partner of the Village project. Law enforcement, specifically the Riverside Police Department, will also serve in the roll of identifying youth that could be considered a priority, based on any number of issues relating to law enforcement.
No Cost — Volunteer Based Programs
The Village programs are designed to serve our community’s at-risk youth in a respectful and meaningful way. The children will not be charged for the various programs.