Since 1951, when Thomas Sullivan brought the YMCA to Boston, the not-for-profit organization has remained a mainstay in American culture.
With the formation of the School for Christian Workers, which trained young men into becoming YMCA professionals, in 1885 (which eventually turned into Springfield College in 1954) Springfield has been home to the development of young YMCA leaders.
During the week of Feb. 16, 15 current YMCA students were given an opportunity to spend the week at the National YMCA Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Occurring once every three years, the Expo, which is put on by the YMCA of the USA (the governing body for all things YMCA in the United States), allows for YMCA professionals around the country to connect, share and spread ideas.
One thousand YMCA employees flooded the gates of the Disneyland Resort eager and willing to expand their spirit, minds, and bodies but of the 1,000 attendees, the 15 Springfield students had the most to gain for this experience.
“The trips that we take are huge because we know that education goes far beyond the class room,” stated director of the Springfield College YMCA Office Harry Rock. “The opportunity to travel is huge as many of our students haven’t travelled outside their own states.”
Travelling and experiencing the world only seem to be a minor detail however, as the 2015 YMCA Expo exposed the students to something greater: their future.
As a YMCA student myself, the Expo was an opportunity for me to see what my life would be like as a YMCA professional. Being surrounded by YMCA staff members from across the country that have lived the YMCA in their everyday lives.
“These trips give us the ability to expose [students] to the YMCA movement which is far more then what they can get at Springfield College or their local communities,” continued Rock.
To people involved in the YMCA it is more than just a gym or a daycare or a swimming pool; to those that are involved in the YMCA, it is a movement. The YMCA affects lives, strengthens communities, and builds relationships through its programs, most importantly through the people that work there.
The new movement, the Togetherhood Campaign, brought on by the YMCA of the USA is designed to do just those things and then some. Inspired by the YMCA members, the Togetherhood campaign brings member leadership into the forefront.
The program gives YMCA members the ability and power to direct service projects and make an impact in their communities. For us students, it was very important to see leadership coming from all places. The Togetherhood Campaign is designed to inspire and bring about activism and change in our local communities.
That is exactly the same foundation the Springfield College YMCA Professional Studies Minor is built around. Impacting communities and understanding that together we can make change.
Although the Expo only lasted four beautiful days, the impact and experiences the 15 students gained will last a lifetime.
Springfield College has and always will be YMCA based.
Experiences like the National YMCA Expo continue to impact its student’s spirit, mind, and body.