An amazing year for the Salem YMCA

Fifth-grade students at The Bentley School in Salem got involved in the recent ‘Step It Up’ initiative sponsored by the YMCA of the North Shore.

To the editor:

As we start the New Year, I can’t help but reflect on 2014 and all our accomplishments at the Salem YMCA and how the entire Salem community is stronger as a result.

Over last year, the Salem YMCA has experienced an exciting renaissance. Our traditional programs are flourishing and our membership is growing at a steady rate. To give you an idea of our impact, consider the following:

The Salem Y community has grown to nearly 5,000 members;

More than 250 Salem children participate in our childcare programs providing a safe and nurturing place for kids to learn and develop;

500 children receive swim lessons ensuring their safety in the water. And this year, we’ve expanded our effort to serve the broader community by managing the public swimming pool at Forest River Park, providing lifeguards to maintain a safe and fun summer experience;

200 of tomorrow’s artists participate in our theatre program in the beautifully renovated Ames Hall, where they have access to live performances, classroom education, and mentorship each year;

150 children are actively engaged in our youth basketball leagues, teaching them teamwork, confidence and self-esteem.

Our strong foundation for growth has allowed us to look beyond our walls like we never have before and expand our impact in the community. Through community partnerships and support, we have successfully implemented strategic initiatives to close the achievement gap, prevent childhood obesity, provide a safe and meaningful space for teens, and promote healthy spirit, mind and body for the aging population. These initiatives are made possible by important collaborations we have developed over the last year.

Here are some highlights:

Achievement gap: Through a partnership with the Salem Public Schools this summer, the Salem Y provided academic-based instruction to 135 students in grades three through five to help close the disparity in academic performance among children from low-income households. Our programs to address summer learning loss focused on instruction and enrichment activities over a five-week period. Our model’s success was based in strategies to teach literacy and math curriculum through a co-teacher model allowing for small group and differentiated instruction. Our programs also incorporated fun — encouraging creativity and expression through theatre, music and dance workshops.

Childhood obesity: In Salem, there are a higher number of children overweight and suffering from obesity than the state average. 41 percent of children in Salem are considered obese compared to the rate of 33 percent statewide. It is a major concern of the region, and of particular concern in Salem. At the Y, helping to address the issue of childhood obesity is a key strategic priority and encouraging healthy living and a healthy lifestyle is a key component of our mission.

To that end, we have developed a variety of programs and collaborations with North Shore Medical Center, Haven From Hunger and the Salem Housing Authority. We offered a mobile farmers market every week over the summer in the Rainbow Terrace neighborhood, providing free, healthy produce and recipe ideas to residents. Our current 7th Grade Initiative provides every seventh grader in Salem a free YMCA membership. This initiative supports and encourages kids to make good decisions that form healthy habits.

Teens: Keeping teens active and engaged is important in helping them make healthy choices. We created Salem Greenspace, an effort that transformed old, abandoned batting cages at Palmer Cove Park into a community garden and resource for the Point Neighborhood. The garden was also an innovative tool to employ teens and teach them how to plant vegetables, educate them on nutrition and build community. In addition, our Y sees the arts as a way to engage kids of all ages. Sparked by our $1.5 million renovation of Ames Hall, we constructed a music studio as an expansion of our drop-in teen center and SAYMedia Video Lab. Teens in Salem now have access to a state-of-the-art music studio equipped with instruments, instruction and a recording booth free of charge.

Aging Population: Our Y is here for everyone and we understand that sometimes bringing the Y into the community is the best way to support our neighbors. We are entering the third year of offering our EnhanceFitness class at the Senior Center free of charge. This fitness program is attended by older adults interested in improving their life through exercise. The program is focused on increasing range of movement to help prevent falls, and aerobic exercise to keep a sharp mind to stay independent. We look forward to offering more classes for seniors in the year to come.

Wow, what an amazing year! I know it would not have been possible without the unending support of our dedicated members, staff, the community and our local partners. Perhaps what is even more exciting is that this is just the beginning for the Salem Y. We look forward to expanding our work as well as our impact in the Salem community in 2015!

Thank you for your continued support as we begin the New Year.

Bob Eastman

President

Salem YMCA Board of Directors

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