After realizing just how much they have in common, Greenfield Community College and The YMCA in Greenfield have officially expanded their partnership, creating new opportunities for both institutions to live out their missions.
The YMCA’s Leader Club, which serves kids ages 10-18, has found a new home on GCC’s campus, engaging with the college’s Senior Volunteers and using the facilities to host their twice-monthly meetings. The modern iteration of what was called The Rags Program at the Greenfield YMCA back in the sixties, the Leaders Club was a natural starting point for GCC and the YMCA to overlap.
Fueled by the YMCA’s commitment to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the program gives preteens and teens the opportunity to make a difference in Franklin County by working together to plan and implement service activities, engage in character building, and enjoy an array of social & recreational programming. In many ways, this program mirrors GCC’s own commitment to diversity, community, and learning.
As Judy Raper, GCC’s Associate Dean of Community Engagement reminds us, “There is a lot of anecdotal information and research to show that when kids are on campus at a younger age, the more likely they are to see college as a viable option.”
By bringing The Leaders Club to GCC, this partnership is already opening doors for students to build important connections; gain benefit from the college’s resources; learn to navigate a college campus; be exposed to the language and culture of higher education, and see opportunities they may not have known existed. Not only can this early exposure increase young people’s confidence by giving them awareness about what to expect, but it can assist underrepresented students — particularly immigrants and first-generation college go-ers — in building foundational connections with the school.
Dave Grappolo, the YMCA’s Youth & Family Director and a GCC ‘01 Alum, says that Leaders Club is all about offering youth “the opportunity to do things that they normally wouldn’t do.” In one sense, this has meant anything from serving a community meal, to doing a ropes course, to fundraising for a trip to a Red Sox game. In another, it has looked like engaging members in discussing tough topics such as the opioid crisis, tobacco, vaping, cyberbullying and social media addiction. With this partnership, comes new out-of-box opportunities. For example, in December, GCC’s Senior Volunteers joined with YMCA’s young leaders for an intergenerational board game night, engaging in conversation and building camaraderie over board games from across the decades.
As this partnership flourishes, more and more people can expect to broaden their horizons. On March 9th, national filmmaker and screenwriter Richie Farrell will give his talk, “From Heroin to Hollywood,” presenting his story of recovery to YMCA and GCC students and staff, followed by a second presentation open to the community. On April 1st, GCC and the YMCA will co-sponsor an intergenerational dance with Greenfield High School, where young and not-so-young will teach dances from their generation. And this summer, the YMCA will host four of its summer camps at GCC, engaging youth in sports, performing arts, and coding across the campus.
All to say, this partnership reaffirms yet another mutual value: access. Both institutions thrive on developing programs that provide every member of Franklin County — regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic class or background — a place to come together, grow their skills and expand their potential.
Grady Vigneau is just now celebrating six months as the YMCA’s new CEO. While it takes many to make a partnership successful, it’s undeniable that Franklin County is already benefiting from the passion and vision of its newest leaders. From the first time Grady and GCC’s President, Yves Salomon-Fernández, came together one thing was clear: they share a passion for service and for building a better tomorrow.
“We are humbled and proud to be swept up in the wake of Yves,” shares Grady, “an amazing leader and changemaker of the future. Her willingness to partner inspires and uplifts us — it helps us moves from spectators to a core part of the teams that allow us to build a better future.”
As Judy Raper says, “This is just the beginning of what GCC and the YMCA can do together.”
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