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YMCAs show love to areas students

by Morgan Smith

(From left) J’Corey Johnson, Natalia Mayorga-Angeles and Jashon Pauling, students at Huntingtowne Elementary School, are participating in the Y Readers program at the school this summer. Photo courtesy of YMCA of Greater Charlotte

While Harris YMCAs work to ensure local kids have new shoes before school starts, the Morrison Family YMCA in Ballantyne is collecting school supplies to make sure some of the same students are prepared to hit the books this August.

Harris, Harris Express and Morrison YMCAs all support the Y Readers program, a six-week summer enrichment program sponsored by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. In south Charlotte, 40 kids from Huntingtowne Farms Elementary are participating in the program at the school, sponsored by the Harris YMCAs. Morrison supports 40 students at Nations Ford Elementary in the Steele Creek area.

“The goal of the program is to bring kids closer to reading level,” Blair Campbell, program manager, said. The program started 13 years ago and has since helped students at Title I schools throughout the area. “Over the past six consecutive summers, 89 percent of the students have raised or retained their reading level by three months, so they are growing that much in six weeks, which is pretty powerful and impactful.”

This is the first year for the program at Huntingtowne Farms, where certified teachers run the programs to ensure students are receiving quality education.

“That becomes important during the time we spend working on literacy with the kids,” Campbell said.  “Teachers are trained, they also already have relationships with the children and they know the school and families.”

At Harris, around 100 volunteers worked to give back to the students in a whole new way.  Partnering with Samaritan’s Feet, a humanitarian aid organization that shares a message of hope and love through washing the feet of impoverished children around the world while supplying them with new shoes, the YMCA helped students at Huntingtowne Farms, Wednesday, July 11. More than 100 students participated in the program, including students from Nations Ford and Billingsville elementary schools.

“The Harris YMCA is actually very, very engaged at Huntingtowne Farms,” Campbell said. “They (brought) out 85-plus volunteers to tell the story of Jesus, wash (students’) feet and give them a brand new pair of shoes.”

The purpose of the event was to empower students in another way, Shannon Emmanuel, the event’s coordinator, said.

“This is just an extension of Y Readers and providing these kids with an extra opportunity,” she said.

Because the YMCA is a Christian-based organization, students in the Y Readers program receive daily devotionals. Students were prepared for the event through devotionals explaining biblical stories about Jesus washing feet and why it was important.

“The parents know about this and they are behind it, too,” Emmanuel said. “It really exemplifies our Christian Mission.”

In Ballantyne, the Morrison Family YMCA is gearing up for school and needs the community’s help to gather enough donations to fill 40 backpacks for kids from Nations Ford.

“It’s everything from crayons, pencils, paper,” Eve Bailey, marketing and communications director for Morrison, said. “It’s another way kids and members can feel engaged. It’s another way for us to connect to the Y cause. And people are out shopping anyway for their kids, so it’s an extra way for people to give.”

Morrison is accepting backpacks, pencils, markers, notebooks, glue and paper now through July 27. People can drop off donated supplies in the designated areas of the Member Services desk, 9405 Bryant Farms Road.

Bailey said the organization needs all the supplies it can get. In the past, the YMCA has made up the difference in donations to ensure all 40 kids get everything they need. In the case of too many donations, Bailey said there are plenty of kids in the Y’s camp programs that could use the supplies.

“We haven’t had to do it yet, but it would be a great problem to have. We would identify kids in the camp program that may be in need,” she said. “We usually have a couple of families that may need the extra support.”

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