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New YMCA program encourages teens to stay in school

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The YMCA of Greater Charlotte has unveiled the latest effort to encourage teens to stay in school. But unlike some other programs that share a similar goal, the YMCA Achievers program has a job-readiness component.

Students chosen for the program will work with YMCA staff and program volunteers to identify career options. They will be given internships and assigned to mentors who can help them identify the skills needed to eventually land the jobs they want.

By focusing the students on work as well as academics, organizers hope the students will be better motivated to stay in school, said Michael DeVaul, the local YMCA’s senior vice president of organizational advancement.

YMCA Achievers was launched in March but officially unveiled at an event Thursday evening at the McCrorey YMCA on Beatties Ford Road.

Three schools selected

The program currently links three CMS schools -- West Charlotte, West Mecklenburg and Vance high schools -- with three YMCA branches -- McCrorey, Stratford Richardson and University City, respectively.

Students enter the program in grade nine and continue through high school. This year’s freshman class, designed for 90 students, has 115. DeVaul said each class is designed to be evenly divided between high-achieving students, middle achievers and low-performing students.

The workforce readiness component will run in conjunction with the school year. During the summer months, the teens will participate in internships led by mentors in the respective professions.

DeVaul said the mentors will help students learn the technical and academic requirements needed for workplace success as well as some of the “soft skills,” such as interviewing techniques, speaking in public and how to influence peers without appearing aggressive.

Goal to increase graduation

Ultimately, YMCA officials said Thursday, the goal is to help Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools increase its graduation rate, currently at 70 percent, to 90 percent by 2014.

“It’s all about standing together to accomplish a goal that all of Charlotte can feel good about,” Anthony Walters, executive director of the Stratford Richardson YMCA, told the group on Thursday.

So far, the YMCA Achievers program has announced two corporate funders: The Goodrich Corp. has pledged at least $50,000, the Belk Foundation committed $20,000.

When the program is fully implemented, DeVaul said, it will require an annual budget of about $290,000.

DeVaul said the Achievers program, which was started in the Harlem section of New York City in 1971, has now spread nationally to include about 231 programs, seven of which are in North Carolina.

To learn more about becoming an adult mentor, email melisa.tate@ymcacharlotte.org or call 704-716-4848, or to give financial support, email blair.campbell@ymcacharlotte.org or call 704-716-6365.

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August 29, 2015
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