YMCA Engages Youth as Leaders and Learners After School

  • According to research conducted at UCLA, teen participation in after school programs helps reduce juvenile crime, sexual activity, and other risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use.  
  • Race and income have been proven to correlate to young people’s access to learning opportunities outside of school – indicating an opportunity gap that is linked to the academic achievement gap.
  • Young people who are engaged in the Minneapolis Beacons Network come to school about two weeks more per year than their peers who are not involved in after school programs.

The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, builds tomorrow’s leaders and addresses the opportunity gap through a variety of after school programming, including the Minneapolis Beacons Network. 

Research shows that young people who participate in after school programs show improved school attendance, behavior and core academic performance. The Y offers many programs both in its facilities and in community centers and schools to help give all students the chance to learn, grow and thrive. One unique opportunity is the Beacons Network, a collaborative among the YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Club and Minneapolis Public Schools Community Education to transform schools into active youth and community centers.

“Beacons is based on the foundations of youth voice and youth choice. We work to create in partnership with our young people safe spaces to engage and learn,” said Alyson Mohan-Lucas, program executive for the Y. “We are constantly trying to uncover young people’s potential and have them understand all the opportunities and options they have.”

Mohan-Lucas added that Beacons helps students develop critical college and job readiness skills, such as collaboration, persistence and initiative. The program also expands students’ horizons, providing them with new experiences that unlock their potential and connect them to caring adults and mentors. Some of the opportunities available to Beacons participants include:

  • Academic tutoring and homework help from teachers or mentors 
  • Physical activities like basketball, weight lifting, gym games and more
  • Enrichment opportunities, including art, dance or music
  • Life skills such as cooking and nutrition classes, barbershop, budgeting or post-secondary planning
  • Leadership opportunities within each high school and the Beacons Network across Minneapolis, including mentoring younger students or planning network-wide activities

See how the Beacons program provides unique after school opportunities in a safe, welcoming space –  Teens Experience Unique Enrichment Activities After School.

Discover how Beacons gave Bebe a chance to lead through cooking and nutrition –  Bebe’s Story

Learn how Ahmed has developed new skills through the Beacons barbershop 
program – Ahmed’s Story.

Programs like Beacons are successful because of the emphasis on youth voice and youth choice. The Y is committed to meeting the needs of youth in all communities and offers a large range of out-of-school activities to ensure kids and teens have safe spaces to explore new opportunities and develop their potential:

  • Before and after school programming at Y and community locations
  • Volunteering, service and leadership clubs for teens 
  • Workforce readiness programs, including internship, volunteering and work opportunities at YMCA locations
  • College access programs that help teens explore and prepare for postsecondary opportunities 
  • Sports leagues or pick-up games, including basketball, soccer, swimming, skateboarding and more depending on Y location
  • Youth in Government, including the Model Assembly and Model United Nations conferences, empowering teens to learn about policy, express themselves with confidence and build leadership skills

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all learn, grow and thrive, financial assistance is available based on need.