Families ride, walk and skate down Broadway St during the 9th Síclovía event on Sep. 27, 2015. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
Families ride, walk and skate down Broadway St during the 9th Síclovía event on Sept. 27, 2015. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

The year 2016 has a special meaning to the YMCA of Greater San Antonio; 140 years ago the organization began their journey of building a stronger and healthier San Antonio.

The YMCA was the first service organization in San Antonio. It was founded in 1876 by a group of volunteers who wanted to serve cowboys, railroad employees, young men and boys who had moved from the suburbs into the city to find employment. Without owning a building, volunteers began providing food, lodging, reading rooms and activities in borrowed facilities around town. It wasn’t until 1907 that the YMCA built their first facility in San Antonio at the corner of North Alamo and Third Street. The facility allowed young men to participate in bible study, physical activity and education classes.

Since 1876 the YMCA of Greater San Antonio has evolved into so much more. They focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, ensuring that everyone has the chance to learn, grow and thrive regardless of age, income, ability, ethnicity or faith. What hasn’t changed is their commitment to strengthen communities and bring people closer together.

Today, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio has 10 full facilities, with the eleventh to be completed in September, and one program center, the Y Living Center. We help more than 50,000 San Antonians live healthier lives through membership to our facilities every year.

Since no two communities are exactly alike, no two Y’s are exactly alike. Y programs and facilities are always based on the unique needs and interests of that community.

With a focus on youth development, YMCA youth programs teach children and teens values and positive behaviors, and youth can explore their unique talents and interests, which helps them realize their potential. That makes for confident kids today and contributing and engaged adults tomorrow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 2015 the YMCA of Greater San Antonio made a large impact on our youth.

They instilled character in over 20,000 youth through Y Youth Sports programs, provided a safe and constructive environment for over 3,500 kids everyday in After School and Early Learning programs and taught 3,000 individuals 18 years of age and under, skills they need to be safe in and around water through swimming lessons.

The Y is also impacting our youth through a program they began only a few years ago called “Power Scholars.” Power Scholars is a partnership with Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL) geared toward closing the achievement gap and minimizing summer learning loss. During the summer, students from underprivileged backgrounds typically lose at least three months of academic growth.

Students in pre-K through sixth grade are instructed three hours per day, Monday through Thursday, on reading and math by experienced certified teachers and teacher assistants. In the afternoons, scholars are exposed to enrichment activities such as arts, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and physical fitness. Fridays are exploration days, where scholars spend the day off campus at a museum, college campus, local fire station or landmarks such as the San Antonio River Walk.

Scholars are hard at work increasing their reading and math skills. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
Power Scholars hard at work increasing their reading and math skills. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

This past summer, 110 scholars graduated from the Power Scholars Academy. Based on the results of an interactive pre and post assessment, underperforming scholars in reading gained two months of academic growth and underperforming scholars in math gained six months of academic growth.

Without a doubt, this work could not be completed without volunteers, donors and community partners.

Some of those partners include Operation Purple Camp, Camp Corral and USAA, all of which help the Y provide a week of resident camp to children of military families who have a parent who is actively deployed or a parent who was killed or significantly injured while defending our country in other parts of the world. This past summer, 325 kids attended a week of camp at the Y’s Camp Flaming Arrow in Hunt, Texas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is no secret that the U.S. obesity rate and risk of diabetes continues to grow. In fact, 29 million Americans have diabetes and 1 out of 3 U.S. adults have prediabetes but only 11% are aware of it. San Antonio’s diabetic population is 14%. Another partner of the YMCA is the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

In 2015, 510 individuals graduated from the YMCA’s Y Living Program and Diabetes Prevention Program. Both programs are free. In partnership with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the Diabetes Prevention Program offers a 12-month group-based nutrition and fitness program for individuals at high-risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Adults participate in a 16 core-session program with 12-15 participants and their families. The goal is to reduce and maintain individual weight loss through regular physical activity and a diet low in fat and calories.

The Y Living Program is a 12-week holistic healthy living program targeting obesity. This family-based program empowers the family to obtain total wellness through enriching the Spirit, Mind and Body. Families learn techniques to reduce and prevent chronic illness through educational seminars and physical activity. To learn more, visit www.DiabetesHelpSA.com.

Anna Lockhart proudly poses with YMCA staff who encouraged her along her healthy living journey to a life free from diabetes after graduating from the Y Living Program. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
Anna Lockhart proudly poses with YMCA staff who encouraged her along her healthy living journey to a life free from diabetes after graduating from the Y Living Program. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Another way that the YMCA hopes to continue combating obesity and bringing the community together outdoors, is Síclovía. The September 2015 event brought on a record attendance of 70,209 individuals. Síclovía is a biannual health and wellness event, the largest of it’s kind in San Antonio, that turns city streets into a safe place for people of all ages to exercise and play in a car-free environment. Families engage in running, biking, exercise classes, and more at no cost. On April 3, 2016, the YMCA will host the 10th Síclovía. Visit www.siclovia.org for more information and download the free mobile app for iOS devices.

One goal the YMCA is hoping to obtain through their 140th anniversary campaign is making the community more aware of Y programs and what the Y can provide for them or their family.

For example, did you know that in 2015 the YMCA of Greater San Antonio invested over $2 Million in San Antonio through membership and program scholarships?

Many don’t know that the YMCA offers financial assistance through their Open Doors Scholarship Program.

The Y provides programs and services to the entire community—regardless of an inability to pay because everyone should have access to our community, along with the programs and services that help us learn, grow and thrive.

The YMCA has much that they hope to accomplish in the years to come to continue serving our youth, seniors, military and neighbors.

Goals the organization hopes to accomplish within the next five years include; increasing their diabetes prevention programs to serve more individuals, increasing their focus on youth obesity, becoming a catalyst for connecting military families and deployed personnel with Y-sponsored programs, providing cultural leadership development opportunities for all youth in Y programs, creating pathways for teens to become Y leaders and supporters of the community, providing innovative ways to increase the nutrition education in our community and more.

This includes building more branches and renovating current ones.

In September 2016 the Mays Family YMCA at Potranco will open at the corner of Potranco and Hwy 151. And in 2017, the YMCA of Greater San Antonio will open their twelfth location next to the Mission Library on Roosevelt Ave.

To learn more about a YMCA near you, visit ymcasatx.org.

The Mays Family YMCA at Potranco is currently being built at Hwy 151 and Potranco Rd. The location will open in the fall of 2016 in a shared space with the San Antonio Public Library. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.
The Mays Family YMCA at Potranco is currently being built at Hwy 151 and Potranco Rd. The location will open in the fall of 2016 in a shared space with the San Antonio Public Library. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

*Top image: Families ride, walk and skate down Broadway St during the 9th Síclovía event on Sept. 27, 2015. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater San Antonio.

Related Stories:

Back on Broadway, Síclovía Draws A Record 70,000

Department of the Interior Chooses San Antonio for Youth Volunteer Initiative

San Antonio: A City at War Against Diabetes

Daily Workouts Keep Vela Young at 94

YMCA / Stephanie Jerger

Stephanie Jerger is the mission advancement communications director for the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, a nonprofit that strengthens communities through programs that build a healthy, spirit, mind and...