By Christopher Tobutt
“All Aboard,” was the theme for the 5th annual YMCA Leaders for Youth Conference. There was a big get-together at St. Ignatius School on Saturday, 18 January with lots speakers from the YMCA family all across the region, with lots of sharing and encouraging for the leaders of Cayman’s youth. “Youth” in this case also includes young children, and since 2015, the YMCA has been responsible for managing the Government-backed afterschool programmes all across Cayman, which provides a structured environment where kids can do extra school-work, as well as learn about the YMCA’S core values of respect, responsibility, honesty and caring.
The conference is the YMCA’s largest training and development event each year, with workshops including ‘Social Emotional Learning for Teens,’ ‘Skills for Child Protection,’ ‘Enhancing Mathematics,’ and ‘Being Aware of Children’s Needs. The workshops were facilitated by a combination of local and international presenters, including: the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (M.A.S.H), National Drug Council, Special Needs Foundation, Toastmasters, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg (Florida) and the Westfield Area Y (New Jersey).
There was a true ‘family gathering’ atmosphere at St. Ignatius school hall, and many of the leaders were excited at what they could learn and experience during the conference. 20 year-old staff member Yandery Gentle said, “I deal with youth day to day; I help them especially with homework. I’m hoping to get more knowledge and learn a little bit more about the YMCA as you can always learn more about the place you’ve worked in.” Tenneshia Coley, 38, is a new YMCA youth leader. “I hope to build my knowledge on working with children and just to become a better person as well, too, personal growth,” she said.
YMCA’s Jenny Stuesser said: “This Leaders for Youth Conference serves as a training and development opportunity for our staff and volunteers. It is also an opportunity for us to really inspire the work that we do with the youth that is the primary focus of our afterschool programme. We have this conference as a way to energize and rejuvenate and face some of the challenges that we might face in our day to day work, and really encourage relationship-building amongst our team both locally and internationally.
YMCA Board Member Tony Williams believes the conference is important simply because the youth are Cayman’s future: “That is one of the things that we always emphasize in the Y; that we have to pass on what we know to the youth so they can continue the tradition we have started as adults. It’s all about honesty, integrity, and being able to understand how to choose between right and wrong; how actually to make the right decisions in life as they grow up,” he said.
YMCA CEO Greg Smith said, “One of the main things we want to do here is just fellowship – spend time with others; that helps to fill our cup up. It’s a time to be inspired by others, as you realize that you are not the only one who is out to captain a ship that is out, sometimes in troubled waters, and that you have a crew and you have others around you that are pulling on the rope in the same direction with the same level of energy and momentum. The mission of the YMCA is to help people to reach their God-given potential, by putting Christian principles into practice in ways that build a healthy spirit, mind and body, for all. That’s a serious mission, and needs a lot of work.”