YMCA Gives Teens Opportunities to Learn, Grow and Thrive

  • According to research conducted at UCLA, teen participation in after school programs helps reduce juvenile crime, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use.
  • Data from the Child Trends Databank collected September 2014 indicate that U.S. teenagers ages 16 to 19 are more likely to have volunteered in the past year than any other age group under the age of 35.
  • According to, 75 percent of teens who volunteer report that their friends are also involved, and that socializing with friends is a top incentive to volunteer.

The YMCA of the North, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, gives teens opportunities to make friends, build leadership and work skills, connect to the community and prepare for the future through its Teen Thrive programs.

Studies show teens who participate in after school activities are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. The Y offers opportunities for all teens to learn, grow and engage in leadership and service opportunities that interest them in a safe place to discover who they are.

"Teen Thrive is a menu of programs that the Y offers in the areas of health, education, workforce readiness and college access," says Becca Fink, senior program director at the Y. "Everything we do involves youth voice and youth choice, and with that, we provide many different leadership opportunities for young people."

Fink added that the Y's goal is that Teen Thrive will empower youth to become:

  • Healthy and active with a commitment to fitness and nutrition
  • Socially and culturally competent
  • Prepared for a dynamic workforce
  • Leaders for positive change in their community

These goals are accomplished through a variety of program models that are designed to meet different community needs and to eliminate barriers to participation through partnerships. Some of these include:

  • Y Start and Leaders Club, after school programs for middle and high school students respectively, which include volunteer and leadership opportunities at the Y and in the community as well as social activities with other area youth.
  • Volunteering and service projects that empower teens to give back to their communities and make an impact in the areas that interest them.
  • Workforce readiness programs, including internship, volunteering and work opportunities at YMCA locations.
  • College access programs that help teens explore and prepare for postsecondary opportunities.
  • Sports leagues or pick-up games, including basketball, soccer, swimming, skateboarding and more depending on Y location.
  • Youth in Government, including the Model Assembly and Model United Nations conferences, empowering teens to learn about policy, express themselves with confidence and build leadership skills.

See how Maya's involvement with the Y from a young age has given her many opportunities to grow and gain workplace leadership skills - Maya's Story.

Discover how Justin has developed friendships and leadership skills through Y programs - Justin's Story.

Learn how Luca's enthusiasm for the Y has bettered his community - Luca's Story.

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all learn, grow and thrive, financial assistance is available based on need.