YMCA plays a major role in students’ lives


Paula Ignacia Boada

Senior Lilit Krkasharian coaching gymnastics at the YMCA

Hello. Bonjour. Hola. Здравствуйте. Բարեւ. Welcome. Enter the Glendale YMCA and immediately be greeted in over ten different languages written in yellow and white letters on the blue wall behind the front desk. Become part of a welcoming, diverse community that has turned into a second home for many high school students over the years. Leap into the blue waters of the swimming pools, journey into the enormous weight room, swing by the dance classes, or throw yourself onto the blue mats of the gymnastics center.

“Everyone at the YMCA, including both workers and members, are always so nice and cheerful,” said senior Joselyn Bille. “I love going to work out there because the staff is very welcoming, and I get to be a part of the YMCA community.”

YMCA has been a place for many students to explore their interests, find what they are passionate about, establish new friendships, participate in community service, and even begin their first work experiences. Junior Razmik Alemsharyan has seen firsthand how much the YMCA has changed him. “I used to go to the YMCA just because they had a basketball court, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized how much that place has shaped my personality and how many good friends I have made just by going there,” Alemsharyan said. “I’ve been going for three or four years already, and I have found that it is a good way to relax after school and just have fun with friends.”

One of the reasons why the YMCA is so popular among high school students is that it is not only a gym, basketball court or a swimming pool; it is a multi-functioning building that takes on different roles in different people’s lives. With a wide array of youth programs, summer camps and sports available to children and teenagers, members of the YMCA can experiment in various kinds of activities, find what they enjoy, and discover where they fit in best.

Sophomore Alaina Joby and her family have taken advantage of the numerous opportunities offered by the YMCA and love going to swim there, with Joby also volunteering in the gymnastics classes. “I like volunteering there because I get to meet a lot of new people, get experience dealing with little kids who aren’t related to me, and get to interact with other volunteers,” Joby said.

Chelsea Lawrence, a coordinator for Youth Development at the YMCA of the Foothills, believes that teenagers are attracted to the YMCA because the Y offers something that other gyms or health clubs don’t offer. “You can be whoever you want to be here and you don’t have to worry about people talking about you,” Lawrence said. Lawrence believes that the YMCA community allows you to be yourself and not fear what other people will think of you. She oversees all of the teen programs, such as Youth & Government, which has about 200 high schoolers involved, and P.I.L.O.T.S, which is a smaller group of teenagers.

Youth & Government is a program for students in high school across the United States that allows them to better understand how the government works and how policies are made. The California state program has around 30,800 teens participants, all of whom, after attending two conferences and learning about the law and politics, are able to take over the capitol and run the state government in Sacramento for five days.

The P.I.L.O.T.S program is a community-service based program which Lawrence says is good for meeting new people and getting community service hours both at the YMCA and outside in the community. “Being a leader-in-training and going through these the programs just helps you develop as a leader, figure out who you are, and gain confidence for the future,” Lawrence said.

Students at Clark are not the only ones getting involved at the YMCA. Many teachers, including United States Government teacher Nicholas Doom, have also been influenced greatly by the YMCA. “My personal experience at the YMCA when I was in high school was very similar to what students experience today,” Doom said. “It’s a local, safe, modern facility that is very member-friendly and I believe kid-friendly. They have opportunities for exercise, weight rooms, a computer lab, all kinds of different computer machines to work out with, as well as homework rooms and mentors available.” Doom’s whole family enjoys going to the YMCA and staying active there. “My wife swims, my son swims, my daughter does workout classes, and I’m on the board of the Youth Development Committee,” Doom said.

YMCA programs and sports are not only appealing to students and teachers at Clark, but from all high schools in the area. Liana Egiazaryan, a senior at Hoover High School, benefits from using YMCA facilities. Although she joined in May of this year, she has already begun to see changes in her fitness level and body strength. “I can’t believe I didn’t start coming to the YMCA when I was younger,” Egiazaryan said. “It’s such a great place to be and do exercise at. I come now mainly to work out at the gym and use their equipment, but their sports programs and other activities seem really cool, too.”

Dr. Brian Landisi, Assistant Principal at Clark, is also on the Board of Directors at the YMCA of the Foothills. He is proud to see Clark students becoming connected with their community and spending their time at the YMCA. “It makes me so happy to see students just being involved,” Landisi said. “It’s one of those organizations that’s really committed to making a difference. Every group I’ve been involved with there has been a really good one, and I’m glad teenagers are getting involved with those same programs.”