This month we are heading north to Ann Arbor, Michigan. As many of you know YVC has been around for 27 years, and YVC of Ann Arbor has been part of the YVC family for most of that time. YVC of Ann Arbor is celebrating 20 impressive years of changing lives through volunteering this year.
We caught up with Cathi Duchon, the fantastic President/CEO of Ann Arbor YMCA (and YVC Headquarters board member!), to find out more about how YVC has grown and changed in the Ann Arbor community over the last 20 years.
What is the biggest achievement that YVC of Ann Arbor has had in the last 20 years?
There are a number of areas of achievement which I would identify for the YVC of the Ann Arbor Y program:
- – Creating a culture of youth volunteers in the Ann Arbor community. Over the past 20 years thousands of youth have developed an understanding of long-term volunteer participation. We have many “known” success stories and many, many more unknown. We have youth returning as Team Leaders, youth returning as Y full-time staff and, youth on Y boards or most likely, boards of other nonprofits.
- – Our YVC program has evolved from being a program that the Y did, to a program that we own. Our board, our staff, our community associate the YVC with the Y. 20 years of history has given us credibility at being able to deliver quality volunteer youth who are dependable and who provide valuable service to our community.
- – Ability to adequately fund the program – which was not the case in the early years. Our funding is well established and is not an issue, so we can focus on creating excellent experiences for youth and for our partners with whom we volunteer.
- – Training staff in Developmental Assets and establishing a culture within YVC of assessing impact through the implementation of specific developmental assets.
- – The biggest achievement is YVC has become the cornerstone of Ann Arbor Y teen programming. It set us up for growth in serving this population at our Y.
How has YVC of Ann Arbor changed and grown over the last 20 years?
We have learned many lessons:
- – We have empowered our youth through the Youth Advisory Council to develop volunteer projects which will attract and motivate young volunteers.
- – We have involved our youth in our efforts to raise funds, not so much for the dollars they raise, but more because we have a goal of creating a continuing culture of philanthropy, as well as a culture of volunteerism.
- – We have developed YVC programming outside of the Y and into surrounding communities and local schools, bringing the program to a much more diverse group of youth.
- – We have provided YVC to hundreds of special needs youth, who also feel the power of volunteering.
- – On a more practical level, we have changed our summer program organization by making groups smaller in order to find more meaningful projects. We know the agencies who do not like large groups and we focus the older youth on the projects that require fewer, more skilled volunteers. We do projects which are mostly accessible with public transportation, which reduces the need for expensive transportation and the risk of driving long distances.
From your perspective, what impact has YVC of Ann Arbor had on the local community?
Our YVC has set a high standard for youth volunteers in our community. Because of the 20 year history, a reputation has been established. This has been carefully developed and maintained by each of our YVC directors and is critically important. Meaningful volunteer projects are the heart of a program – for the young volunteers as well as the Team Leaders. In order to have the confidence of agencies in our community we have been very careful to conduct surveys, establish relationships and develop strong partnerships with the organizations where our youth volunteer. Our projects have been very creative and innovative.
Many of our youth have also gone on to volunteer further with an organization, to be staff for the Y, to be YVC Team Leaders. One young man told me that his first Y experience was with YVC, and now that he is a YVC Team Leader, he has “completed the circle.”
YVC of Ann Arbor is hosted by the YMCA, how does YVC help promote the YMCA’s goals of healthy living, youth development and social responsibility?
We feel very fortunate to have established this significant youth development and social responsibility program well before the areas of focus had been established by the YMCA. YVC has been our Y’s primary youth development program. And, of course, volunteering is social responsibility at the highest level.
While other Ys are attempting to grapple with the programming and funding of youth development and social responsibility, we in Ann Arbor have been doing it for many years.
Also, as I mentioned in the first question, YVC was the first of the teen programs established at our Y. It became the cornerstone of our teen programs from which many others have been launched – including Action Corps, Youth in Government, Leaders Club, Teens on Board, Youth Global Leaders and Teen After School.
What do you foresee in the next 20 years of YVC of Ann Arbor?
We will continue to expand our reach, by becoming more established in the Ypsilanti community; we hope to grow Action Corps, which is a subset of our YVC that empowers youth to initiate new volunteer opportunities; we will participate on a volunteer global project, as it is critically important for today’s youth to understand their global community.
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