Youth Passion + Social Issues= Change

Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic? Don’t be so old fashioned. Today’s students are breathing new life into school subjects by creating positive social change in their community.

Within the YMCA of San Diego County, 10 of our after-school program sites participate in the WE Schools movement, a program that challenges young students to identify local and global issues they are passionate about and empowers them to take action.

The WE Schools approach helps students understand the root causes of pressing issues like hunger, poverty and access to education, and inspires them to explore how they can make a positive impact. With this knowledge, the students plan and carry out at least one local and one global action to improve their community and, by extension, the world.

We recently celebrated the achievements of 6 community impact projects from Audubon Middle School, Bell Middle School, Feaster Charter School, Montgomery Middle School, Pershing Middle School, and Taft Middle School at the YMCA Global Youth Summit on Learning Through Service.

Involvement in the WE Schools movement inspired students in grades 6-8 to combat poverty and food insecurity in their community. The students hosted multiple social events and, instead of charging an admission fee, asked attendees to bring canned food, clothing items or toiletries to donate to local social service organizations. Items from the toiletry drive were even donated to youth in our YMCA Youth & Family Services programs in a wonderful display of support across our Association.

“We need to understand that we can’t take things for granted because everyone doesn’t have what we have,” said one Taft student. “We need to focus on what we do have, and not what we need.”

The summit gave students a platform to share their local projects and draw attention to their global projects to raise funds for clean water projects in Africa. Participating schools are trying to reach a goal of raising at least $700 by selling handcrafted bracelets, which teaches students elements of entrepreneurship and social responsibility.

The students hope their projects are just the beginning. WE Schools embrace the idea that the positive actions of one individual will inspire others to do the same. Similarly, we at the YMCA believe in the power and potential within every member of our community, especially for school-age children who are growing and understanding how they fit into the world around them.

When this process of discovery takes place in an enriching, supportive environment, there is no limit to what our students can accomplish. Before- and after-school programs keep kids safe, improve academic performance, and help parents keep their jobs. When students have an after-school program they can turn to, they achieve more and avoid engaging in risky behaviors, so it’s imperative that we continue to support these enriching environments for our future leaders.

Interested in more information about our Expanded Learning Programs? Learn more here