Be Kind. Be Safe. Stay Smart. Have Fun.
This summer I had the opportunity to return to the Minnetonka YMCA Program. This program provides opportunities, both educational and experiential, to students in my community that might not otherwise have them.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to this program and its truly remarkable director when I was just 16 years old. I distinctly remember tentatively walking into a small poorly lit community room at an apartment complex on a summer afternoon before my junior year in high school. I had just gotten my driver’s license and it was time to get my first formal job.
Little did I know, as I sat across from Miss JoAnne, that this program would become so much more than a job. Instead of a source of a paycheck, the Y became like family. When I left the program at the end of the summer after graduating high school the program had grown from just 20 kids in that community room to over 40!
I vowed to come back to visit, but I wasn’t sure if I would ever again be able to return to the program in a “full time” capacity. Four years later, by fate, or destiny, or the grace of God, or maybe just karma, it worked out that I had three months between my college graduation and the start of my new full time adult job. I was able to return to the Y, now over 130 students strong, for five weeks of camp as a lead teacher of the 5th and 6th grade students.
I can’t even begin to express how lucky I feel to have been able to be a part of the Y program this summer. There is something almost magical about the way so many people pull together to make such a wonderful thing happen. And the students, I can’t even begin to express the multitude of ways in which they have stolen my heart.
To my students if you stumble across this: Thank you for making this summer one that I will always remember fondly. Thank you for helping me to discover that I truly love working with young people. I hope each of you know that you are extremely bright and have amazing opportunities in front of you. To those who’s names I called out more frequently than you would have liked; know that it is because I believe in you and know you have the capacity to be great. To those who’s names I didn’t call enough; know that I noticed you, your quiet leadership, your intelligence, your kind spirits. To all of you, please know that I am so excited to see what the future has in store for you. Conduct yourselves with leadership and integrity. Try to learn a new word every day. And know that I would go to the ends of the earth for each and every one of you.
To my fellow teachers, especially those who shared the 5th and 6th grade classroom with me, I’m so grateful to have gotten to know you and to have learned from you. Your dedication and enthusiasm, kindness and humor all made this summer everything I could have asked for and more.
To those who were students when I left the Y four years ago and are still with the program (as older students or staff); it is so amazing to see the incredible people that you have grown into. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!
And finally to Miss JoAnne. Thank you. You are an amazing, incredible person with the biggest heart I have ever know. I will miss you, your quirks, your enthusiasm, your passion, your advice, and your Y. What you have built in the Y program is truly beautiful and I am so blessed to have been a part of it.