A donation from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation will provide up to 5,000 free YMCA memberships for Twin Cities teenagers this summer.
Each of the metro’s 25 Y locations will have 200 three-month memberships to give away to kids entering grades nine through 12 under its new Get Summer program, according to the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.
“The YMCA is thrilled to partner with the Schulze Family Foundation to provide a safe environment for young people to engage in programs that promote healthy living, build character and leadership, and support success in school and in life,” YMCA CEO Glen Gunderson said in a news release. “The Y is committed to eliminating barriers to participation so all have the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive during the summer months.”
The $500,000 donation from the Schulze Family Foundation will fund the program through 2019. The foundation was founded in 2004 by Dick Schulze, founder of Richfield-based Best Buy.
“We believe supporting the YMCA summer program is a unique opportunity to directly provide an educational and enriching experience for teens and their families during the summer months,” said Mark Dienhart, president and CEO of the Schulze Family Foundation.
The program is meant to address the lack of structure many teens face after the school year ends, said Greg Waibel, the YMCA’s chief operating officer. He added that destructive behaviors like drinking and drug use among teenagers increase during the summer months.
This problem is compounded by the fact that fewer teens are holding summer jobs, Waibel said. The summer employment rate for kids age 16-19 is just above 31 percent, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. This number is roughly half of what it was in the late 1970s.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who co-chairs to Senate’s Afterschool Caucus, applauded the Get Summer program.
“Summer enrichment programs are key to helping teens enhance their skills from the school year and not let them slide,” Franken said in the news release. “The YMCA’s new summer membership initiative further illustrates their leadership in providing Twin Cities youth with important opportunities to further their education and improve their health and well-being, and I am thankful for these efforts.”
The memberships, which are valued at $200 each, include access to gyms; indoor and outdoor pools; fitness centers with weights, cardio machines and other workout equipment; and group exercise classes, according to the YMCA’s website.
As part of the program, teens will receive lunch at Y locations in West St. Paul, Shoreview, White Bear Lake and Maplewood, Waibel said. They will also have the opportunity to apply for part-time jobs at the Y.
Twin Cities YMCAs already serve as many as 15,000 teenagers daily during the summer, Waibel said. More than 80 percent of Twin Cities teenagers live within a 15-minute drive of a Y location, he added.
The free memberships will be given on a first-come, first-served basis beginning June 1. To enroll, teenagers must bring a valid ID, class schedule or report card, and the permission of an adult or guardian to a YMCA location by June 12.