The YMCA is known for its emphasis on health and exercise, but it is also helping students to become leaders through the YMCA Leaders Club.
While the Leaders Club encourages physical health, it also teaches positive life skills.
“The purpose of the leaders club is to help teenagers,” said Angela Davis, supervisor of the East Pasco Family YMCA Leaders Club. “Leaders Club is a national program of the YMCA that provides club members with opportunities for leadership training, personal growth, service to others and social development.”
To be eligible, students must have a 3.0 or higher GPA, have some type of leadership skills and generally be physically fit, Davis said.
“If they are not, they don’t have to come in perfect. My thing is to get them in and teach them leadership skills to make them better citizens for the future. This is our next generation coming up,” she said.
Young people in the Leaders Club are tired of the “bad kids” getting all the attention, Davis said. They want to show that there are “good kids” out there as well, she said.
Leaders Club also helps them accumulate their volunteer hours needed to graduate high school and to get a Bright Futures Scholarship. From January to March, 20 kids in the leaders club accumulated 406 hours of community service.
“It’s just a fun easy way for kids to come in and make a difference in the community,” Davis said.
Davis took the program over last August. It had languished and had only about three or four kids involved at that time. Currently there are 30 kids and they are busy.
“The YMCA Leader’s Club has been a blast,” said 10th grade Zephyrhills High School student Cody Phelps. “The Leader’s Club has taught me many things: leadership, friendship, and team-building skills and techniques,” Phelps said. “We have done so much … this club has made me and others more involved around the community.”
The kids in the club come from a variety of schools.
“We have kids involved in our group that are from Pasco High School, Wiregrass High School, Wesley Chapel High School, Zephyrhills High School and Stewart Middle School,” Davis said. “I love that because I’m not a cliquey person, so I do love the ‘melting pot’ and we have more boys than we do girls in the group.”
Pasco High School sophomore Alexis Williams likes the diversity of the group.
“During my experience with the YMCA, the Leaders Club has helped me tremendously,” she said. “One of the ways the club has helped me is by becoming more comfortable with socializing with people I’m not familiar with. It has also taught me many characteristics a true leader should portray.”
For many leaders clubs, the main goal of the year is to raise money to get to the annual Leaders School at the Blue Ridge Assembly near Ashville, N.C.
The club has three students attending the school this year. They are: Dylan Kinsman, Austin Bryant and Elijah Rodriguez.
Others have set their sights on learning and practicing their skills close to home.
“The YMCA Leaders Club is more than just an opportunity to attend a trip to Blue Ridge Leaders School,” said Rodriguez, a 10th grade ZHS student and a YMCA Leaders Club Board of Directors officer, “but an opportunity to better your life for the future.
“In this club, you walk away with honed leadership skills and people interaction skills, but not only do we better ourselves, but we strive to better the community as a whole.”
The Leaders Club volunteers for activities such as Breakfast with Santa or Breakfast with the Bunny, entertaining children at Parents Night Out and other local events.
The next major effort coming up is a student-led activity designed to highlight health. The “Y Run? Overrun the Fort Leaders’ 5K” is an upcoming event in which the Leaders Club will be participating.
The event will be held at 9 a.m. on May 18 at Fort De Soto Park. It is geared for children 13 to 18 years old, but anyone is invited, Davis said.
The goal is to make people aware of obesity in young people and why it is important to be healthy and active. The fee is $20, but if participants register online they can get a coupon for $5 off. People are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch.