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Wednesday, September 19

Brookdale Newsroom

YMCA College Readiness Program Earns National Recognition

The Community YMCA is helping at-risk students overcome obstacles and realize their dreams of attending college through Y Achievers, a nationally-recognized program that gives teens encouragement, support and tools to prepare them for a bright future.

“At the Y, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve,” said Laurie Goganzer, President & CEO of The Community YMCA. “Through the Y Achievers program, we do just that. We guide and motivate teens to pursue education and career goals so that they can realize their fullest potential.”

The Community YMCA’s Achievers program was recently honored as a recipient of Algorhythm’s 2018 HI Impact Award. The award, given to programs and organizations demonstrating exceptional success in youth development, reflects the Y’s commitment to serving the youth of area schools in Monmouth County. The Y Achievers program was one of 13 in the United States recognized by Algorhythm, a Philadelphia-based company that tracks and measures success of youth development programs.

During the 2016-2017 school year, more than one in five of the young people in Y Achievers demonstrated “exceptional growth,” outperforming 85 percent of the 150 programs in Algorhythm’s Youth Development Impact Learning System. Findings suggest that Y Achievers is genuinely helping young people learn the skills they need to succeed in life, said Jo Ann Rountree, the Y’s Senior Director of Community Outreach, who has directed the program since its launch in 2006.

The Community YMCA introduced the college readiness and career exploration program to help under-served, minority teens to achieve higher education by providing enriching experiences, like college fairs and tours, academic support, leadership skills and nurturing role models. Since its start, more than 1,400 youth and teens in Monmouth and Ocean counties have participated in the life-changing program, Rountree said, and more than 80 percent have enrolled in college following their senior year.

“We are pleased to share that this school year, 90 percent of the participating seniors in Y Achievers were accepted and enrolled in college and 100 percent of the 2016 and 2017 groups were accepted into college,” Rountree said. The program served 177 youth and teens from Asbury Park, Belmar, Keyport, Neptune, Red Bank and Union Beach during the 2017-18 school year.

“The majority of our students are the first in their family to attend college. It’s a tremendous achievement, especially given the challenges they face including working part-time to supplement the family income and taking care of younger siblings after school hours and on weekends,” Rountree said.

Bryanna Reevey, alumni of the program and graduate of Brookdale Community College, who now serves as a mentor, said it is rewarding to work with the Achievers program. “I love helping other youth overcome challenges and achieve success in relationships, school and life,” Reevey said.

Two years ago, The Community YMCA and Y Achievers programs from around the country were granted almost $1 million from the national YMCA headquarters, YMCA of the USA, to upgrade the program. The Community YMCA was one of 15 Ys to test the new tools and resources which included: a focus on five pillars (academics, college knowledge, positive relationships, life skills, positive identity); the 6 to 16 curriculum, developed by the University of Chicago; training; and Algorhythm, the assessment tool.

The program relies on philanthropic support from the community and has received funding from the New Jersey Office of Faith Based Initiatives, St. George’s by the River and the OceanFirst Foundation. “Without this support and the generous time and effort of local volunteers, the program would not be able to continue,” Goganzer said.

For more information on the program, contact Rountree at 732.671.5505 or e-mail jrountree@cymca.org.