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Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
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Counseling kids is his calling

TAMPA — It hasn’t even been two years, but Nick Szmyt has found his dream job.

Szmyt supervises the Kid Zone Learning & Play Center at the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA. He was previously a manager at a local restaurant, wondering what to do with his future. He had always been close with his much younger brother, when it occurred to him that he needed to work with children. It didn’t take long before Szmyt was employed at the YMCA and he has no plans to leave.

He works in the learning center with kids ages six weeks to 12 years. He is part of a committee among the YMCAs that comes up with policies and ideas for the kids, and knows he has found his calling.

“When my little brother and I became close, I knew I could take care of kids,” Szmyt said. “I started here at the Y and I realized that this is what I want to do.”

His three main principles when it comes to working with kids are youth development, psychological development, and health. He puts it all together in the term “social psychology.”

He still attends the University of South Florida where he majors in Public Health and Spanish. The Spanish part is coming in handy. With Hispanics making up more than one-third of the Northwest Hillsborough YMCA, Szmyt is able to put his knowledge of the Spanish language into effect, first because he can understand the children, and, second, so he can teach Spanish to kids so that they can better communicate with their friends.

Szmyt spent most of his summer traveling through Europe, and working on his Spanish during a stay in Spain, and has introduced a new program to the YMCA. Every Monday he hosts a Spanish class for the kids, which consists of signing, talking, and reading. It’s called “Spanish For Fun,” and has become popular with the kids at the YMCA.

The classes, and the experiences Szmyt has had during his brief time at the YMCA have made it clear to him that he made the right career move.

“This is a great community, and everyone has been so positive to what we have been able to achieve,” Szmyt said. “We aren’t done yet.”

Szmyt is part of the Hillsborough County Literacy Council and is working to advance the Spanish-English education program.

“The idea is not to enable the kids but to empower them,” Szmyt said. “We want all of the kids working together and learning together. There are no cliques here where the Hispanic kids and the others are separate. The kids are pure and innocent. We don’t have problems with religions or anything else. The kids just want to play together and if I can make that work, that’s what makes it work for me.”

He also likes to point out that the YMCA is more than a daycare where parents can just drop their kids off and hope they have a safe day. He wants to make sure the kids are learning while they are there all day, especially during the summer when school is out.

“I really believe in what we are doing here,” Szmyt said. “This is a family environment here and the kids are learning something. I love it here.”

For more on the Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA, call (813) 249-8510.

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