Stronger Ys, Improving Lives | Vol. 1 Issue 4

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STRONGER Ys IMPROVING LIVES ALLIANCE OF NYS YMCAs QUARTERLY MAGAZINE

www.ymcanys.org VOL. 1 ISSUE 4

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2019 EXECUTIVE OFFICERS ANNE BRIGIS President YMCA of Long Island

SHARON LEVY Secretary YMCA of Greater New York

JAMEY MULLEN Vice President Norwich Family YMCA

HANK LEO Treasurer YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley

ALLIANCE STAFF Kyle Stewart

Executive Director kstewart@ymcanys.org

Drew Caldwell

Director of Youth Development dcaldwell@ymcanys.org

Paige Hughes

MARK WILLIAMS Vice President YMCA of the Twin Tiers

Director of Healthy Living phughes@ymcanys.org

Mary Kay Polston

Director of Member Advancement mpolston@ymcanys.org

2019 BOARD OF DIRECTORS BRIAN BEAROR Glens Falls YMCA

MIKE GRAMMATICO GLOW YMCA

VANESSA BOULOUS YMCA Retirement Fund

GREGG HOWELLS YMCA of Rye

DONNA BOYLE YMCA of Long Island

JERRY HUNCOSKY Frost Valley YMCA

DAVID BROWN Capital District YMCA

CHUCK MAZE Rockland County YMCA

MICHAEL BROWN YMCA of Central New York

GEORGE ROMELL YMCA of Greater Rochester

PAUL CALLAHAN Capital District YMCA

GARETH SANSOM YMCA of Broome County

BUDDY CAMPBELL YMCA Buffalo Niagara MARK ECKENDORF Jamestown Area YMCA

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JAMES VAUGHAN Frost Valley YMCA DENISE YOUNG Watertown Family YMCA

Olivia Rickenbacher

Director of Communications orickenbacher@ymcanys.org

Rob Totaro

Associate Director of Member Advancement rtotaro@ymcanys.org

ABOUT THE ALLIANCE The Alliance of New York State YMCAs is a nonprofit association that represents the interests and needs of YMCAs throughout New York State. The Alliance supports its member YMCAs through a holistic approach of four core areas of work:Public policy and external relations; Public funding and financial resources; Member advancement and capacity-building; and Statewide initiatives and programming.

Alliance of New York State YMCAs, Inc. 465 New Karner Road, First Floor Albany, NY 12205 518.462.8241 | www.ymcanys,org

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


TABLE OF CONTENTS 4 END OF SESSION ROUND UP 5 Y ADVOCATES IN ACTION 7 THE Y GUIDE TO: INVITING A MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO YOUR YMCA

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8 PARTNERSHIPS FOR PROTECTING OUR YOUTH 9 THE TOP 4 CHALLENGES ORGANIZATIONS FACE WHEN SCREENING VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF

10 CHECKING IN WITH MEMBER ADVANCEMENT 11 ASKED AND ANSWERED: GET TO KNOW ROB TOTARO 12 ENCOURAGING AND EMBOLDENING THE

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CHANGMAKERS OF TOMORROW

14 2019 HIGH SCHOOL YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT PHOTO GALLERY 15 SAFER ROUTES, BRIGHTER FUTURES 16 PARTNERS IN PUBLIC HEALTH 18 EQUITY IN EXERCISE

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A NOTE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S DESK As New Yorkers, I think we all agree that summertime means much needed vitamin D and warm temperatures after the seemingly endless winter and rain-filled spring. As Y Leaders, however, summer means one thing and one thing only - summer camp! For kids across the state, camp is a time to learn how to swim, meet new friends, make lasting memories, and discover the great outdoors. You, our New York State YMCAs, serve over 50,000 day camp and overnight campers each season, which is both exciting and a tremendous responsibility. We know keeping our children safe and successful is embedded in the Y’s yearround mission, but we must be increasingly aware during the summer. As we provide children with these new experiences and lifetime memories, child safety must be at the forefront of everything we do. As your statewide resource, the Alliance is here to support you in making this camp season the best one yet, so never hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call. The Alliance is proud to represent you, your YMCA, and your community here in Albany. We look forward to seeing the inspiring work delivered by your Y whether it be summer camp, swim lessons, or through summer learning programming. Take care and have an excellent summer, Kyle Stewart

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THE STATE OF THE Y:

END OF SESSION UPDATE By Kyle Stewart

Much like it began, the 2019 Legislative Session concluded with a flurry of decisions on noteworthy legislation.

Legislation that passed which is relevant to YMCA operations include:

In the eleventh hour of this year’s legislative session, there was resolution of several pent-up initiatives that had been debated for years. Governor Cuomo called this the “most productive session in modern history” in reference to the number of progressive agenda items passed. Some of the Governor’s achievements this year included: a middle-class tax cut; making the property tax cap permanent; reauthorization of the minority and women-qwned business program; election reform; approval of the DREAM Act; and Improvements to the MTA management system.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT SUPPLEMENTAL BILL Discretionary capital and program funding available to eligible entities. Capital funding for shovel-ready projects (for profit and nonprofit) at the discretion of the State Legislature and Governor. Program funding for opioid abuse services and prevention; immigration services; gang violence prevention for youth; and domestic violence services. WORKPLACE HARASSMENT PROTECTIONS EXPANDED Lowers the burden of proof for state law discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims stating that harassment on the basis of any protected characteristic is unlawful regardless of whether or not it is “severe or pervasive”, which is current law. ELECTION DAY LEAVE Registered voters must be granted leave of up to three (3) hours to vote without loss of pay at either the beginning or the end of a working shift. Employees who need time off to vote must give their employer at least two working days’ notice of the intent to take leave; and employers must post a notice of employees’ rights pursuant to this law at least 10 days before each election. ELIMINATE THE RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS FOR MEASLES VACCINATION The outbreak of Measles in certain regions of New York State is at epidemic levels. The State Legislature and Governor Cuomo came together to remove the non-medical exemption for vaccinations of children to enroll in schools.

Each session, there are a handful of bills which require a greater amount of our attention in concern for the impending effect on our Ys. The following bills were not acted upon by the end of session on the 21st of June: PREVAILING WAGE ON STATE FUNDED CAPITAL PROJECTS This proposal would impose public works and prevailing wage mandates on all projects receiving any level of state or local financial assistance, which would significantly add to the cost of such projects. Governor Cuomo opposed this legislation. NONPROFIT PROPERTY REQUIREMENT This bill would impose a 7-year limit on the property tax exemption for nonprofits to make improvements on obtained property. While summer camp property was exempt, this bill grants greater discretion to local tax assessors to impose property tax after the seven-year threshold. We thank you for your support and dedication this legislative session. Whether you joined us during Advocacy Days or invited legislators to your Y, your efforts continue to make a difference. Collectively, we will build upon our successes and continue to provide our YMCAs with effective representation in Albany.

ANCHORING OF FURNITURE IN EARLY CHILD CARE FACILITIES Requires large furniture and electronics to be properly anchored within day care facilities. NYS Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) will promulgate regulations on this new mandate.

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ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


Y ADVOCATES

IN ACTION!

In March, Ys from across the state were invited to attend YMCA Advocacy Days in Albany and our Ys did not disapoint! We were joined by many Y leaders, staff, volunteers and proponents of the YMCA to educate lawmakers on the topics ranging from capital projects to youth development programming and every need in between. Each year we stress the importance of advocacy and consistent relationship building with elected officials because the

Anne Reif, YMCA Buffalo Niagara; Senator Jacobs (R-NY-60); and Penny Snell, YMCA Buffalo Niagara

Tony and Anne Brigis, YMCA of Long Island; Assemblywoman Jean-Pierre (D-NY-11); and Eileen Knauer, YMCA of Long Island

decisions they make in Albany effect the Y, our communities and us as constituents. While nothing is guaranteed, strong, lasting relationships are ultimately a long-term investment in strengthening our impact on our unique communities. As evidenced by our success in securing the $400,000 Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) line-item in the Executive State Budget for FY 2019-2020, these Y advocates championed their work and were successful in telling their stories!

Senator Funke (R-NY-55) with Andrew Powers, YMCA of Greater Rochester

Sara Heslin, Capital District YMCA; Chuck McGaffin, Y Advisory Council; Senator Tedisco (R-NY-49); Gurinder Garcha, Y Advisory Council; and Aaron Ditch, Capital District YMCA.

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Chuck Maze, Rockland County YMCA, Senator Skoufis (D-NY-39); Senator Carlucci (D-NY-38); and Kim Coons, Rockland County YMCA Board President Jennifer Ryan-Safsel, New Rochelle YMCA with Assemblyman Otis (D-NY-91)

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-NY-83) accepting the Y Champion Award with Kyle Stewart, Alliance of NYS YMCAs, Anne Brigis, YMCA of Long Island, and Sharon Greenberger, New York City’s YMCA

Andrew Bobbit, Saratoga Regional YMCA with Senator Tedisco (R-NY-49)

Eileen Knauer, YMCA of Long Island; Senator Flanagan (R-NY-2); and Anne and Tony Brigis, YMCA of Long Island

John Lefner, Capital District YMCA; Senator Tedisco (R-NY-49); and Andy Gladwin, Chair of Y Council of Advisors Assemblyman Ortiz (D-NY-51) showing off his YMCA photo wall skills

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ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


THE Y GUIDE TO:

INVITING A MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO YOUR Y

IMAGE SOURCE: UPSPLASH

Public officials want and need to hear from the Y. Inviting lawmakers to visit your YMCA is an opportunity to effectively educate them on how the Y impacts and strengthens communities every day. Summer recess in August is a great time to invite your members and with that right around the corner, here are helpful steps to successfully inviting, planning, and executing a congressional visit! These tips are adapted from Y-USA Government Relations’ Engaging Public Officials Toolkit. For the full Tool-kit or to find who your U.S. representatives are visit our website at www.ymcanys.org.

THE INVITATION

Step 1. Make your request by email to scheduler Immediately follow up the initial request with a phone call to the member’s local district/state office and Washington D.C. office. Suggest specific times and dates during the congressional recess – ideally when your programs are in full swing. Step 2. A week before the visit, call to confirm the date and time with the scheduler Be sure to ask how much time you will have with the senator or representative. Be flexible! Keep in mind that legislators’ schedules can change without notice.

PREPARE FOR THE VISIT

Step 3. Identify board members, youth, volunteers, program participants, or staff who can tell the Y story effectively. Aim to have 4-5 people for the visit to ensure the most effective outcome and be prepared! Plan how the visit will proceed and clearly communicate the goals and purpose of the visit with those who are involved.

Tip: Do your research! Visit the senator or representative’s website and social media pages to learn more about their background interests – you may even have a common personal connection! Step 4. Create informational packets Identify pertinent, impactful pieces that tell your Y’s story effectively. It could include your community impact fact sheet, annual report, press releases, program/schedule of the visit and program brochures. Incorporate any articles, youth essays, parent letters, awards, etc. that highlight your community impact. Step 5. Create a proposed schedule The congressional office will appreciate this in advance of the visit and will likely request it. Step 6. Engage the media Ask the congressional office if it’s okay to invite press. Work with the member’s press staff to send a media alert to invite press and prepare a press release for the day of the event. Step 7. Plan on taking and sharing photos Share photos with your local newspaper, Alliance, and/or on social media with the hashtag #Yadvocate.

AFTER THE VISIT

Step 8. Send a personalized thank you letter with a picture from the visit to the member Include any new information or newspaper articles resulting from the visit. Add the member and staff to your email and snail mail distribution lists – newsletter, press release, etc. to keep the aware of the work of your Y.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Google Images

PARTNERSHIPS FOR PROTECTING OUR YOUTH The Child Victims Act, a landmark piece of legislation focused on protecting children has been signed into law in New York, with a similar bill signed in law in New Jersey in May. Both pieces of legislation expand the window of time in which a victim of abuse can bring a lawsuit, as well as opening a brief lookback period in which any case can be brought to trial, regardless of how long ago it may have occured. In an effort to act as a resource and provide advice to Ys in New York and New Jersey, the two State Alliances partnered to host a joint Child Victims Act Webinar on June 4th, 2019. The webinar included presentations by representatives from the Redwoods Group and Praesidium. This marks a successful collaboration between the neighboring Alliances and will serve as a model for future collaborations on issues of shared concern. Protecting the children in our care and providing a safe space for our members is at the forefront of the YMCA’s priorities, and thus there are several resources movement wide to accomplish this goal. The YMCA has a national partnership with Praesidium in order to advance the cause of child safety in all of our facilities, programs, and communities. Praesidium is an organization dedicated to providing data-driven resources and methods that organizations like the YMCA can use to ensure that they are providing children in their care and all members with a safe environment.

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By Drew Caldwell

The Praesidium Safety Equation is a well-researched and proven guide to evaluate how YMCAs incorporate strategic thinking about safety into all they do. Beyond simply using this equation as a tool, YMCAs are required to regularly complete Praesidium’s Know Your Score Assessment by specifically appraising their individual practices in regard to child safety. You can learn more about this specific tool and Praesidium in general by visiting their website: www. praesidium.com The most important thing to remember when thinking about these tools and the importance of child safety is that they should be regarded similarly to any other important kind of maintenance. With consistency and quality, the tools can strengthen the experience at your YMCA for all members. However, if neglected or left to be dealt with only when an issue arises, that’s when real problems occur. There is no doubt that we need to put as much effort into ensuring that children are safe as we do to making sure weights are put back on the rack. The great news is that Praesidium and the New York State Alliance are here to help you in this effort, and the path is already laid out for you.

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


The top 4 challenges organizations face when screening volunteers and staff This article was originally published on December 6, 2018 in Praesidium’s online Safety Bulletin blog. A seemingly endless stream of frightening news reports shows that even the most well-respected organizations are not immune from employees that pose a danger to vulnerable populations. Ongoing issues have been uncovered in a number of organizations that once enjoyed flawless reputations. Praesidium has seen the same four challenges crop up again and again in organizations.

However, because information is siloed, no one has a complete picture. There is no way of knowing whether there are enough yellow flags to constitute a red flag. Make it a point to include a step in your process that breaks down information silos. Gather everyone for a debriefing session to compile application data, then encourage discussion. 3. FAILURE TO SOLICIT INPUT AND PERSPECTIVES The employees and volunteers you have in place today are a wealth of skills and experience. Unfortunately, those making hiring decisions often miss opportunities to leverage these abilities, because they fail to solicit input and perspectives from others. Instead of a solo approach to the hiring process, take on the project with a partner. Each of you may pick up on something that didn’t register with the other. Better still, connect with other staff members who have informal contact with candidates. Impressions from these interactions can be invaluable in your decision to hire.

1. PACE OF HIRING Chances are, your staff members are already working at 100 percent capacity. In many cases, employees at nonprofits find themselves singlehandedly filling multiple roles. In this environment, there is a lot of pressure to fill vacancies quickly. IMAGE SOURCE: UPSPLASH

When hiring moves at a rapid pace, it is tempting to take shortcuts, for example skipping stages in the process. However, such shortcuts can have devastating consequences. Instead, take a step back and look at the situation from a strategic perspective. Slowing the pace of the hiring process reduced risk for the people you serve. 2. INFORMATION SILOS With staff putting in extra effort to cover the responsibilities of a vacant position, it can be easy to get out of the habit of sharing thoughts and ideas. People are just too busy to exchange detailed feedback, and critical information becomes siloed. This tendency is exacerbated when the hiring process moves too quickly, especially when multiple staff members are involved. For example, sometimes one person reviews applications while another interviews and a third examines screening results. Each of these steps can raise yellow flags – relatively minor issues that would not necessarily eliminate a candidate.

4. FEAR OF DISCOURAGING VOLUNTEER PARTICIPATION The unpaid services of volunteers can mean the difference between success and failure for some organizations. This puts volunteer managers in a difficult position. While safety is still a top priority, no one wants to risk losing high-quality candidates because there are too many barriers. It may be that your volunteers have limited access to vulnerable populations, so your hiring procedures can be revised a bit. However, your processes should be consistent within the same role, based on the responsibilities of the position. Keep in mind that once you have determined your process is appropriate for your organization and your population, the possibility of losing volunteers must not supersede safety concerns. Instead, consider that candidates who are uncomfortable with the hiring process may not be the right fit for your program.

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TO SERVE TO SUPPORT TO STRENGTHEN

Checking in with Member Advancement By Mary Kay Polston and Rob Totaro Under the leadership of Mary Kay Polston and Rob Perhaps the most important focus of the new service Totaro, our Member Advancement team is hard at work delivery model is the focus on creating and supporting connecting and engaging Ys in our state to determine networks and collaborations throughout the state. In and address key service delivery needs. In addition to April, we held our first Program Network gathering, which a primary focus on Board Development and Strategic hosted more than 150 membership and program staff Planning, Mary Kay and Rob are committed to supporting from more than 20 Ys in our state. Not surprisingly, the Ys in all operational areas by leveraging local, regional most impactful part of that event was the facilitation of and national resources. We are fortunate to have peer communities, and the event evaluations confirmed amazing expertise and resources right in our state, that your staff are eager to connect more frequently with thanks to our Training Partner CEO SURVEY RESULTS Y (Rochester), Top 3 Areas of Need: Culture of Philanthropy and our three Service Delivery 42% Financial Development Project Financing Partner Ys (Frost Valley, Staff Recruitment 35% Capital Planning Rochester and Priority Topics Syracuse). 23% Human Resources If your Y needs support in any operational disciplines, feel free to reach out to Mary Kay or Rob, and they will connect you with the appropriate Partner Y. In April, CEOs were asked to complete a survey to share feedback regarding service delivery in three key disciplines: Capital Planning, Financial Development and Human Resources. The Member Advancement team is now using that feedback to develop an operational plan to address key areas of need in each of those disciplines. Please keep an eye out for announcements about upcoming webinars, trainings and new resources to support capacity-building for both staff and volunteers in these critical areas.

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their peer groups. To that end, our Member Advancement team is working closely with the YPN leadership in our state to support ongoing peer community connections, since this is a key focus for YPN. If you’re a member of Chapter 7 (Western/Central NY), mark you calendars for Friday, October 18 for the YPN Fall Event in Rochester. We’ll share information about other chapter events as information is available. Please don’t hesitate to connect with our Member Advancement team if you have comments, feedback or suggestions on how they can continue to support your Y’s service delivery needs.

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


ASKED AND ANSWERED:

GETTING TO KNOW ROB TOTARO Q: WHAT ASPECT OF THE ROLE OF ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF MEMBER ADVANCEMENT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO? Throughout my career I have found myself either creating or reinventing the position I was hired for. The new Network Partner model offers me that chance again. I am energized by the idea of being able to work with other world-class professionals to create meaningful and sustainable impact on YMCAs and communities throughout the state.

Q: WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN? Early success is a terrible teacher.

Q: WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE BEING IN YOUR ROLE? There are some real opportunities for Ys to increase their capacity and deepen connections in their community. I think the biggest challenges for all of us will be to leave the past in the past, and to be willing to embrace this new model of network cooperation. I think we need to come to an agreement that our network partners are here to strengthen all of us.

Q: DO YOU HAVE A 100-DAY GOAL? My job isn’t about setting personal goals. I’m here to service and strengthen member Ys. So while I’d like to meet with all of our CEOs in my first 100 days, I’m more interested in hearing what Ys need and deciding how the Alliance and our Network Partners can help meet those needs.

Q: WHO INSPIRES YOU? Inspiration can come from so many places both internally and externally. I think the key to inspiration is being willing to look for it wherever you are. For example, my five-year-old

son continuously inspires me. Picture his world… everything is exponentially larger than his is. He can only understand a portion of the language. He is surrounded by objects and concepts that make no sense. He is constantly being told where to be, how to act, and what to do by the adults in charge. Yet everyday he wakes up and the world is new and full of adventure. His unfettered optimism gives him the ability to tackle any challenge and continuously grow into his world. I believe it’s a gift to be able to live and learn like that.

Q: WHAT ARE THE VALUES THAT DRIVE YOU? Caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility would be too cliché, right? But honestly I believe in working hard. I enjoying listening more than talking. I value surrounding myself with people who are contagiously happy. I also value intellectual curiosity.

Q: HOW DO YOU RECHARGE AFTER A LONG, STRESSFUL DAY AT WORK? In our house we have three stairs that lead from the kitchen down into a family room. Every night when I get home from work, I jingle my keys as I walk in the door and into the family room. I can hear the floor rumble as my son sprints through the house and leaps off the stairs into my arms squealing “Daddy!” If that doesn’t recharge your battery and remind you what is truly important, nothing will.

Q: IF YOU COULD ONLY CHOOSE ONE, WHAT SUPER POWER WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE? I believe that empathy should be a superpower. Although it’s an abundant natural resource in YMCA staff, I think we are in great need of empathic heroes in our society today. But if you challenge me on the superhero-ness of empathy, then I guess I’d like to have teleportation abilities.

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ENCOURAGING AND

EMBOLDENING the changemakers

of tomorrow By Maille Bowerman, 2020 Youth Governor

case review. Once we arrived at the conference, I offered the same guidance to delegates from across the state. It seemed to me that many of us were a little nervous about facing the myriad nerve-wracking tasks ahead of us such as knowing parliamentary procedure, winning a campaign, or even making friends at the dance.

This past March, I had the honor of attending the annual NYS YMCA Youth and Government conference. En route to the Albany, aboard “...we were the bus, there was an air of expectation, consumed with the excitement, and exhaustion. Many of my less experienced peers had tossed and turned notion that we were throughout the previous night in anticipation more than just of the impending four days, during which they would debate legislation, argue appellate teenagers... that we law, and learn the intricacies of our complex could truly change the government.

world for

As a veteran, I reassured them that everything would be okay; no one is going to be kicked out of YAG for mistaking one cross case for another during

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What I found most striking about this conference, though, was the ability of students to overcome their apprehension. First year delegates realized their potential as they debated the merit of bills, feeling the exhilarating rush we veterans know all too well and vowing to never put down their placards again. Second and third year delegates blossomed the better...� into the roles of committee chairs, cabinet members, and justices, finally becoming the leaders their advisors had recognized in them long before. Delegates rose above

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

2019 HIGH SCHOOL YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE

their circumstances, forgetting the trials and tribulations of adolescence for three glorious days when the ever-present thoughts on our minds were —thankfully— not about homework or high school drama. Rather, we were consumed with the notion that we were more than just teenagers, that we could play a part in the future of New York State, that we could truly change the world for the better, and that we could do this all and still be able to let loose at the dance. Long before I began my journey to Youth Governor, these notions of greatness fostered by Youth and Government fascinated and fueled me to strive for more. That drive pushed me to serve as a justice, CONA delegate, and Chief Justice, where I learned and led simultaneously. In these roles, I found myself somewhat daunted by responsibilities, expectations, and pressures-- most of which I placed on myself. At the same time I was also comforted by the student-run nature of Youth and Government.

Remembering that the people who relied on me were peers, friends who understood and empathized with me, helped me realize that Youth and Government holds opportunities for me to venture out onto any limb of any tree knowing that no matter how high up I am there will always be someone there to catch me. So, I climbed higher and higher, the catalyst of my Youth and Government career being the bright eyes and radiant smiles of delegates whom I had mentored. The friends I made, the people I helped, the duties I fulfilled left me impassioned, empowered, and excited for the next conference. My only hope is that as Youth Governor I can continue the Y’s formative legacy of encouraging and emboldening the young leaders of tomorrow, a legacy that has helped countless others and myself realize our potential through opportunities for which we are forever grateful. Photo Credits: Warren Hamilton

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2019 HIGH SCHOOL YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE

Photo Credits: Warren Hamilton

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ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


SAFER ROUTES

BRIGHTER FUTURES By Paige Hughes This year, the Alliance of New York State YMCAs received a grant from YMCA of the USA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify state strategies for creating active and healthy communities. Specifically, the Alliance chose to focus on Safe Routes to Schools efforts.

through policy and practice. The SRTS Student Ambassador Pilot Program is intended for middle or high students interested in advocacy and public policy, specifically as it relates to transportation, health, education, and/or environmental policy.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal, state and local effort to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school – and to make walking and biking to school safe and appealing. Safe Routes to School can also help combat the high physical inactivity rates among children.

In early May, 15 students from across the state were identified to serve as inaugural SRTS Ambassadors. During this three-month pilot program, students will learn the many health and economic benefits of walking; identify factors that make their communities walkable; and engage with community leaders who have the power to influence creating safer, more walkable routes to school. Additionally, students’ public speaking, critical thinking, and analysis skills will be enhanced by conducting a walk assessment around a nearby school in their community.

In 1969, more than 50% of children walked or biked to school. Today, fewer than 15% of school-aged children do. As a result, today’s children are less active, less independent, and less healthy. Given the our success with advocacy and programming, the Alliance created the Safe Routes to School Student Ambassador Pilot Program to engage youth who are interested in creating meaningful and effective change

Together, we are confident that we can move the needle on Safe Routes to Schools in every corner of our state and begin to make communities healthier and more equitable for people of all ages and abilities.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Google Images

PARTNERS IN PUBLIC HEALTH: From Cradle to Career, Addressing Infant Feeding as a Tactic in Combatting Childhood Obesity By Paige Hughes In New York State, one in every three children is considered obese or overweight. With the obesity epidemic rapidly spreading, the Y has made the commitment to educate kids about healthy lifestyles, model healthy behaviors and cultivate environments that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for all. With the help of key partners and state-level funding, the Alliance has made significant strides in combatting the childhood obesity epidemic statewide through a variety of trainings, research opportunities, and grants to local Ys.

WHERE IT BEGAN Among the many partners is Christine Bozlak, PhD, MPH Associate Professor in the Department of Healthy Policy, Management, and Behavior at the University at Albany School of Public Health. The Alliance began working with Dr. Bozlak in 2013 after receiving a grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to help local Ys address childhood obesity. “From the first time I met Dr. Bozlak, I have been thoroughly

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impressed with her knowledge and experience in health policy,“ said Kyle Stewart, Executive Director of the Alliance. “That expertise, combined with her research skills and support of the YMCA’s mission, made it a very easy decision for us to partner with her on these important projects.” Upon the conclusion of the RWJF grant, the New York State YMCA Foundation received a line item in the New York State Budget to support the YMCA’s statewide Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards work. Of that funding, money was allocated to conduct an external evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the state-funded initiative. The Alliance turned to Dr. Bozlak to lead the evaluation. Dr. Bozlak’s findings indicated that YMCAs saw success in the areas of healthier eating and engaging children in increased physical activity. The Alliance used Dr. Bozlak’s evaluation results to advocate for more state funding to support HEPA. Through their advocacy work, the Alliance has secured a total of $2.1 million in legislative grants since 2015.

2019 INFANT FEEDING RESEARCH When the Alliance began planning for the 2019 HEPA initiative, they immediately reached out to Dr. Bozlak. “It was clear through Dr. Bozlak’s work on the Pioneering Healthier Communities Grant that more needed to be done to support infant feeding at YMCAs across New York State,” explained Paige Hughes, Director of Healthy Living at the

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


Alliance. “We wanted to be proactive and understand how to better equip our Ys with resources and policies that support breastfeeding mothers and their staff, while simultaneously demonstrating a continued commitment to HEPA.” With funds from the 2019 HEPA Implementation & Expansion Grant, Dr. Bozlak was provided $20,000 to conduct a pilot intervention study with a small sample of YMCAs. The 18-month study, which launched in January, will use data from previous studies and look at practices to create interventions for a sample of four YMCA Associations across New York State. Four additional YMCAs will serve as the control group and will not receive the intervention until after the study is complete. “We are conducting an organizational-level study to get an idea of what is feasible to implement at a Y,” said Dr. Bozlak. “This could include anything from training for staff and managers about how to support breastfeeding moms, resources for breastfeeding moms, and physical space such as lactation rooms.”

STAYING TRUE TO THE STANDARD The Y’s HEPA Infant Feeding Standard encourages adults who work with infants and their families to promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for six months and the continuation

of breastfeeding in conjunction with complementary foods for one year or more. Research shows that breastfeeding is associated with positive health outcomes, including the prevention of obesity, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear and respiratory infections, and Type 2 diabetes in children; and Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and breast and ovarian cancer risk reduction in mothers. Although organizations, like the Y, are mandated by law to accommodate breastfeeding mothers, there can be challenges to implementing organizational-level infant feeding and breastfeeding best practices and policies. Bozlak offered the example of a mother supervising her child swimming at a YMCA pool, but who also has a nursing infant. “Mothers may run into situations where they need to nurse their baby, but there’s no practical and private way to do so,” she said. “If women frequently run into predicaments like this they are more likely to forego breastfeeding, and there are things we can and should do to prevent that.” To date, the participating YMCAs have participated in a kickoff webinar and completed a baseline assessment survey. Within the coming month, the four “intervention” YMCAs will receive their first intervention toolkit to be implemented and monitored over a six-month period.

IMAGE SOURCE: Google Images

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IMAGE SOURCE: YMCA of Greater Rochester

EQUITY IN EXERCISE:

Adapting fitness to meet the needs of members with all abilities By Paige Hughes At the Y, it is our mission to provide programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for people of all ages and abilities. With grant funding from the New York State Department of Health Disability and Health Program, the New York State YMCA Foundation identifies YMCA health and wellness staff to earn their Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) certification through the National Center on Health Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The CIFT certification provides health and wellness professionals with the knowledge and skills that they need to uniquely design and implement individualized exercise programming to improve or maintain one’s physical ability to stay active in sports, recreation or daily activities. The CIFT certification prepares staff to work one-on-one with anyone

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STRONGER Ys IMPROVING LIVES

living with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability. Since 2016, more than 160 YMCA health and wellness staff from 11 YMCA Associations across the state have earned their CIFT Certification. Justin Kelsey, Health and Wellness Director of YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Northwest branch, earned his CIFT certification in 2017 through the grant with the New York State YMCA Foundation and the New York State Department of Health. Justin’s interest in pursuing the CIFT certification was initially sparked by his interactions with members at his local YMCA with development disabilities, use a wheelchair or other assistive devices. “I saw a need in our membership community and was hoping to make an impact and provide additional [physical activity] options for all,” he explained. Justin reflected on a recent bright spot with a sixteen-year-old member at his Y: “My favorite CIFT success story stems from a young man (age 16) that I have been training using my CIFT certification for almost two years. In the early stages of our training together, I was having a hard time accurately communicating some of the nuances of proper exercise to him, such as pace and

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAs


breathing. After a few rather difficult sessions, I sat down with the young man’s mother, as well as my CIFT textbook, to look at alternative options that might help him better understand what I was attempting to explain. After our meeting and some further research, I settled on a plan. I increased my use of simple cues saying things like “slow like a turtle” when performing the eccentric phase of a bicep curl. I discovered that he was excellent at mirroring. Therefore, I spent far less time trying to correct his form verbally and would stop him and demonstrate again and again until the motion was fluid. Perhaps the most unique thing that we did together was develop a personal flipbook with our exercises and their names to help him associates pictures with names and movements. A portion of the flipbook counted down reps and sets so he knew each exercise’s goal and how many more he had left to perform. This worked phenomenally!

After months of using the flipbook, we attempted a training session without it. The change was amazing. Even without the flipbook, this young man had processed and programmed the order, name, and how to do the exercises. Both his mother and I were blown away! He continues to amaze me as he grows up and learns more about exercise, and I am extremely thankful for all that I have learned along the way. Without having earned my CIFT certification, my knowledge of how to approach this young man and his exercise goals would have been extremely limited.” To learn more about how your YMCA health and wellness staff can earn their CIFT certification, contact Paige Hughes at phughes@ymcanys.org

IMAGE SOURCE: YMCA of Greater Rochester

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ADVOCACY IS OUR CAUSE.

ADVOCACY IS OUR CAUSE

Helping New York’s YMCAs Strengthen Communities Statewide.

ALLIANCE OF NEW YORK STATE YMCAS, INC. QUARTERLY MAGAZINE | VOL. 1 ISSUE 4 465 New Karner Rd, 1st Floor Albany, NY 12205 nysymca.org