The YMCA launched its first national campaign in January 2016, and one of the 60-second spots was titled “Idle Hands.” It’s a powerful video that shows seemingly bored kids with nothing to do.
“Idle hands,” the narrator says in the commercial (The Y: Idle Hands). “They say they’re the devil’s workshop.”
The Pew Research Center reports only 20 percent of today’s 16- and 17-year-olds hold a summer job and that rate is lower among teens of color. And there are overwhelming statistics that show summer time — when their schedules are less structured — is when there is more risky behaviors like violence, drinking and drug use.
That’s why I regard the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation providing free summer memberships to teens so important to the Y’s work. In fact, given past success, we’ve expanded the partnership from 4,800 to 6,200 kids at 25 different Y’s throughout the Twin Cities. The programming for the students includes health and well-being classes, fitness challenges using the Y app, leadership and character development programs, and job readiness and workshops designed to help them with employment opportunities. It also provides an outlet for these young people to serve others. Developing a “social good” conscious will pay back for them and their communities for a lifetime.
I wanted to provide the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation this platform to explain why they have ramped up their support of this program. Here is a Q & A we did with former University of St. Thomas executive vice president and chief operating officer Mark Dienhart, who now is the president and CEO of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation:
Q: Why does the foundation support this summer membership program for teens?
A: It starts with Dick. He grew up in a family that was lower-middle class, where his father owned a business. There weren’t a lot of people who were going to bat for them, and they struggled to make ends meet without any public assistance. So he’s had a bias to help people who are trying to get into the middle class.
This summer program was a perfect way of doing a lot of what he wanted to do. It gives kids a chance to gain access to the Y and a chance to work. We saw this as kids who not only would avail themselves of the fitness and recreation opportunities but also contributing back to the Y with the work that they would be doing.
Q: How often do you hear about the program’s stories of impact?
A: There are so many of them! But there are some things that tend to impress Dick and our board. One is strong leadership, and Glen came to speak to the board at our last board meeting, and we know what a strong leader he is. Dick knows the importance of leadership, and he knows how important it was when he was building his company, and making it the largest consumer electronics retailer in the world. The program can impact so many people and also the values of the organization. All of that dovetails very nicely with what Dick is trying to accomplish with his philanthropy.
Dick’s been involved in a lot of things, but every time I talk to him about the Y, he essentially says, “It’s a tremendous feel good.” That’s what I try to provide for him, and that’s what he deserves, given what he’s trying to accomplish. I’m grateful to Glen and the Y.
We at the Y are so grateful to partner with such amazing individuals and foundations. But there are other elements at work with this program. Oftentimes, our young people get cocooned by others who are most like them. In serving all, we allow kids to be around others from all backgrounds. We are emerging as a richly diverse community…a local, yet global community. This is the environment they grow up in, live in and work in. They can broker and bridge relationships, with folks who aren’t like them. Not from the same athletic programs. Not from the same ethnicities.
We also proudly provide caring adults who can help them because we know, in youth development, success is predicated in a young person’s connection to one or more caring adults. This program is connecting those youth to folks at the YMCA who ultimately are looking out for them.
We can’t wait to share more powerful success stories with Mr. Schulze and all of you.