Thoughts from the executive

January 02, 2011

I Will Be Watching You

"If I only had a dollar for every time..."

We have all heard that said before. For me in 2010 it would be every time I heard "I will be watching you" thanks to San Diego Magazine's 50 People To Watch In 2010. And when I did, the thought that repeatedly came to mind was something my father preached long ago when he said, "Son, how you act when people are watching you is not nearly as important than how you act when nobody is watching."

People have been watching our YMCA since 1943. The countless contributions of time, treasure, and talent of so many inspired volunteers and staff has made a difference in the lives of kids and families in San Diego County's most critical community for a long time.

If you follow Executive Decisions or our official Facebook page chances are you are aware of all the news that did not make the news in 2010 - and there was a lot.

We were blessed to learn last month that the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation, awarded $4,989,927 for our Teen & Family Recreation Center project. This year, extreme make-over projects by hundreds of volunteers from The Rock Church and Frito Lay Day of Service added some TLC to our aging facility until we build the new one planned for it's current location.

What is most exciting about all the facility buzz is how many more kids and families will be served when the dust settles. Kids already love coming to the Y. Some come after school for homework help. Some come to play soccer, basketball, or for a swim in the pool. Arlene has been crossing Imperial Avenue since she was seven years old. Now she is working as an intern on Capital Hill after graduating from Northwestern University. Before leaving for Washington, D.C. Arlene ran our Cox Tech Center Tutoring Program sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

When it comes to helping kids graduate from college, failure is not an option. In April, our Jackie Robinson Tribute & Scholarship Gala awarded scholarships to it's fourteenth class of college-bound high school seniors. Since the San Diego Padres helped launch the first tribute to Jackie Robinson in 1997 over 120 grants have been distributed through the lead of our beloved honorary chair, Jerry Coleman. Our strategic school partnerships continued to grow in 2010. The PrimeTime Before and After School Programs at Audubon, Burbank, Fulton, and Rodriguez elementary schools grew to include the five campus King-Chavez Charter Schools where our Y has a full-time presence.

And there is more.

We are involved in a collaboration of principals, teachers, parents, students, and community leaders working with the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in a partnership called The Diamond Learning Community. The collaborative represents eight schools (Chollas-Mead, Horton, Johnson, Knox, Porter, and Valencia Park Elementary Schools, Gompers Preparatory Academy, and Lincoln High School). Together, they are building a support network that nurtures the unique talents of students, unleashes their unlimited potential to learn, values diverse cultures, and embraces families through a pilot program called Opening Doors. Opening Doors encourages culture of learning and directly supports the most disengaged students, their teachers, and families. Add the Neighborhood House Head Start and the San Diego County Office of Education Sports Academy that are located at our Y it is safe to say there are a lot of little eyes watching.

Education has always been important to me. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. This year, I had the opportunity to return home to Detroit to attend my 40th high school reunion. It was great to see so many friends from school, and my coaching days at Brother Rice High School, University of Detroit, and the Detroit Pistons; however, it was tough to see how the miserable economic times have taken a huge toll on this once proud region. In August, I was able to visit the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at the new Mets Stadium, the Harlem YMCA - where Jackie Robinson worked and served as a board volunteer, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, founded in 1973 as a vehicle to perpetuate the memory of Jackie Robinson through the advancement of higher education among underserved populations. 1,400 students from 43 states and the District of Columbia have benefited from the Jackie Robinson Foundation's services.

As we enter a new year, i can't help but think how many times I run across people who have a Jackie Robinson Y story. Some go way back to a time before I-805. Many now bring their kids to the place that was there for them when they were a child. History is important. Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles is the last surviving person that was in the Lorraine Motel room with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before he stepped out on the balcony on April 4, 1968. Rev. Kyles spoke at our 25th Annual YMCA of San Diego County Human Dignity Award Breakfast this year. He talked about being a witness to the dream.

I had the opportunity to sit with Rev. Kyles at the airport before he departed from San Diego. It did not take long for me to understand that he was a survivor of violent loss. How do I know? Courtney Graham was a 25 year old college student who worked at Comic Con and the Belmont Roller Coaster. He had been coming to our Y since the age of four. In July, Courtney was gunned down walking home with his laptop in his backpack. A few months later, another friend of our Y was shot and killed in the line of duty. San Diego Police Officer Chris Wilson chose to spend his entire seventeen year career in Southeastern Area Command that includes our YMCA service area. Two more candle light vigils helped support a grieving community, but to the families, the vigils will last a lifetime. Michelle Muhammad, the mother of Mikey Beckwith held one recently at Kennedy Park on the sixth anniversary of her son's murder. There was a table with pictures of thirteen neighborhood youth and young adults that have lost their lives to gang violence since Mikey died six years ago.

So, if you are watching, if it has anything to do with youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility chances are you might find our Y involved. In 2011, I would like to invite you to volunteer, donate, and follow us by spending your heaven doing good on earth at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA.

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