Under the VolunTEEN program students can receive a free 10-week membership to the YMCA of San Antonio in return for volunteer hours. Credit: Courtesy / YMCA of San Antonio

Summer vacation is just around the corner, and the YMCA of Greater San Antonio is offering local teens the opportunity to stave off boredom through its youth volunteer program taking place at all 11 locations throughout the city.

In exchange for three hours of volunteer service, the VolunTEEN program provides free memberships and a safe space for youth ages 13-18 to stay active, make new friends, and gain life skills over the 10-week summer break.

After a successful first year, the program was expanded to include all YMCA locations throughout San Antonio, said Sandy Morander, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

“Last year we had 400 kids participate in the pilot program out of five local [YMCA] branches, which they found out about solely through word-of-mouth,” Morander said. “We knew we were onto something, so we expanded the program to include every YMCA because we wanted to be sure we were reaching all kids in every community we serve.”

To fulfill volunteer hours, teens can work as lifeguards, summer camp counselors, office aides, or daily program assistants. “Most locations are open 17-hours per day, so if you like being in a physical environment, [the YMCA] will have a job for you,” Morander said.

YMCA of San Antonio President and CEO Sandy Morander
YMCA of San Antonio President and CEO Sandy Morander Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The VolunTEEN program is made possible through a partnership with the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Antonio Police Department to ensure that San Antonio youth stay out of trouble through the summer months, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a press conference Tuesday.

“Part of this program is simply about helping youth build positive relationships with law enforcement,” Salazar said. “The Sheriff’s Department already works closely with the YMCA, and we want to use this program to help expand the applicant pool for our Explorer Program,” which provides educational training programs for youth interested in careers in law enforcement.

Morander said connecting area teens to jobs and educating them on career paths is part of the mission of the YMCA.

“We are one of the largest employers of young adults in this city – 44 percent of our workforce is people 16-24 years of age,” Morander said. “It is our duty to prepare our future employees and the city’s future employees by providing them with a place to learn, gain positive feedback, and navigate career opportunities by giving them the opportunity to explore.”

The VolunTEEN program begins June 1, and teens are eligible to apply throughout June at any San Antonio YMCA location. Parent permission is required to participate, and a parent information session will take place at every location on June 8 at 10 a.m.

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.