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May 2024 Partner and Volunteer Highlight: YMCA Alexandria

May 2024 Partner and Volunteer Highlight: YMCA Alexandria

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is celebrating its partnership with the YMCA Alexandria as we observe National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

The partnership between the YMCA and ACPS includes after-school programs that offer academic support — such as tutoring and homework assistance — to enhance students' learning outcomes. Additionally, the YMCA prioritizes physical activities to promote health and wellness among students, fostering habits that contribute to their overall well-being.

“Without a doubt, the biggest benefit students get from engaging in YMCA activities is the focus on holistic development, incorporating elements of physical fitness, mental well-being, social interaction and community wellness,” Executive Director Dominick Dorazio stated. “For example, sports programs not only promote physical health but also teach teamwork and sportsmanship.” YMCA activities also provide a safe and supervised environment for students with positive role models to help explore new interests and talents. “This can help boost their self-confidence and self-esteem as they discover their abilities and passions.”

Enrichment activities that are part of the YMCA after-school program also complement school curriculum, such as art activities, music programs and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives. These activities aim to broaden students' horizons, spark creativity and cultivate a life-long love of learning. Dorazio explains the overall focus of YMCA activities within the partnership with public schools is to support students' academic success, physical health and socio-emotional development, fostering well-rounded individuals who are prepared for future challenges.

As today’s youth often face academic pressures, social media influences and other stressors, physical fitness activity plays a crucial role in supporting their mental well-being. Dorazio explains physical fitness activities help reduce stress and anxiety levels through the release of endorphins, often referred to as "feel-good" hormones, which can improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can also help regulate sleep patterns, leading to better rest and improved overall well-being.

“Participating in physical fitness activities can boost self-esteem and confidence in youth. Achieving fitness goals or mastering new skills can instill a sense of accomplishment and self-worth,” Dorazio noted.

Participating in physical fitness activities and sports is a way for students to acquire social skills. They learn the importance of communication, teamwork, time management and setting goals. Engaging in activities outside of the regular class setting allows students to explore different interests and develop new skills. This can help keep students engaged and motivated which, in turn, can lead to improved academic performance. In addition, out-of-school activities can help students build social connections, friendships and foster a sense of belonging and support. Dorazio believes this can be especially beneficial for students who may feel isolated or struggle to connect with their peers in a traditional academic setting.

The YMCA partnership with ACPS provides comprehensive support and opportunities for students. In terms of after-school programming, the partnership has been particularly active in elementary schools, offering direct busing from Mount Vernon Community School,​​​​ Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School, Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology and George Mason Elementary School. The YMCA-ACPS partnership also extends to middle and high schools, offering volunteering opportunities for students to get involved in their communities. The YMCA even provides initiatives to help students secure their first jobs and internships right at the Alexandria branch. These job programs aim to provide students with valuable work experience and mentorship opportunities, helping them develop professional skills and prepare for future career success.

The YMCA stands for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. By promoting these values, the YMCA strives to provide a positive role model for today's youth by encouraging them to lead healthy, active lives and become responsible members of their communities. “At our core, we promote values such as respect, responsibility, honesty and caring, which serve as guiding principles for youth to emulate,” Dorazio shared.

Overall, the YMCA provides a wide range of activities that cater to diverse interests and needs, offering students valuable experiences and skills that contribute to their personal growth and well-being. The YMCA offers an inclusive and welcoming environment as it is open to all, and promotes diversity and acceptance. Additionally, the YMCA's commitment to community engagement and service sets a positive example for youth, helping students develop a sense of social responsibility and empathy.

  • 2023-24
  • Partner & Volunteer Highlight