JoAnn Price is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for her leadership and commitment to the ideals of the YMCA.
I am honored to be thought of as a “Champion of Change” and thank President Obama for recognizing ordinary citizens, like myself, for doing what we, as citizens, are obligated to do. One’s civic involvement is not done for recognition or personal gain; it is done to contribute to a better community, city, state and nation. I am blessed to have been surrounded by a dedicated group of “caring citizens” who believe our children have value, can all learn, and must be supported in order to reach their fullest potential. Our children are the future, and our society will rise or fall depending upon how well we support and encourage them.
The YMCA of Greater Hartford (GHYMCA) supports this important work. The GHYMCA has a longstanding commitment to: “putting a caring adult in the presence of every child; being good stewards of the resources entrusted to it; and working, in partnership with others, to eliminate the disparities in health and education.” I am pleased to volunteer for an organization committed to servant leadership. I am intimately involved in the work of the GHYMCA as a policy volunteer at the corporate and community level, as a financial contributor, and as an active participant in our Parent and Youth Achievers Program. Our YMCA Association serves 117,000 individuals, 65,000 of whom are children, in the rural, suburban and urban communities of greater Hartford. Many of our members reside in the economically poorest communities in the state of Connecticut. Economically poor, but rich in a multitude of other ways, and our goal, as an organization, is to nurture that vast richness, especially the “richness” embodied in our children and families.
Our Parent and Youth Achievers Program has created a legacy of achievement that inspires everyone connected to the program. That legacy is cultivated by our collective commitment to, and love for, the children and families we serve. And the fruit of that collective commitment is a cadre of successful and empowered young people. These youngsters are excelling in school and pursuing post-secondary educations, enhancing their chances for successful, healthy and productive lives. However, this is not the whole story.
In addition to the success experienced by children, our Achievers Program offers a “pay it forward opportunity” for many adults in our community. The success of our program is dependent upon the support and direct engagement provided by a great number of volunteers. These volunteers become keenly aware of the “view” they offer our youth – a view into a multitude of career options – a view of what comes of hard work and determination – a view of success. Our volunteers have witnessed first-hand, the power and grace of servant leadership, as they give their time, talents and treasure in support of the next generation of civic leaders, scholars, professionals and servant leaders. In fact, while our volunteers are inspiring, they are being inspired – the proverbial two-way street.
Our Parent Achievers warrant recognition for their efforts as well. These are the mothers, fathers, grandparents and guardians of the children we serve. They meet whenever their children meet. And they support one another as parents, neighbors and citizens. They share an incredible bond, and each child in the program belongs to all of them. They collective share in their respective successes and challenges. They are the “village” that raises the children.
In closing, let’s focus on our children. It is our job, as adults – parents, volunteers and Y staff, to offer them the opportunities they need for success, but it is our children who must take advantage of same. They are the ones who are doing the hard work needed to be successful in life. They are the true “Champions of Change.” Let us recognize and celebrate their success!
JoAnn Price has helped develop the Youth Achievers and Adult Achievers Program at the Wilson-Gray YMCA.