Growing up in Milwaukee, YMCA Camp Director Diego knows firsthand the experience of the kids he works with.
“My mom was always putting me and my siblings in programs like YMCA Day Camp,” recalled Diego. “It was a positive outlet and great exposure for us.”
At 16, Diego became a YMCA Leader in Training and discovered his passion for youth development. Flash forward to today and Diego gets to help young people like JB find their passions too.
“The core of what I do is provide a safe and welcoming environment for the kids and teens,” said Diego. “JB is a great example of someone who has become a leader in our program.”
Fourteen-year-old JB is a helper. During the pandemic, JB attended the YMCA Extended Learning Academy for youth whose parents were essential workers. There, he always jumped in to help Diego serve lunch and keep the younger kids entertained.
“JB naturally took on a leadership role,” said Diego. “A lot of the younger kids really looked up to him.”
Donations to United Way supported the YMCA Extended Learning Academies during the pandemic. United Way support also allows JB and other youth to attend the YMCA Summer Day Camps for free.
JB’s passion is basketball, and he loves getting to play games with staff and campers at the YMCA. When he struggled with virtual school, Diego and JB made a deal – JB had to finish his work, then he and Diego could go shoot hoops together.
When JB got the opportunity to join an intramural basketball team, Diego and another staff member took him to his try out. They also went together to support another camper during his basketball tournament.
“Building community means showing up for each other,” said Diego. “We build great trust with parents and provide a safe place for these kids.”
Today, JB is a proud Leader in Training just like Diego was. Looking toward the future, Diego’s example has helped JB see a similar future for himself.
“I don’t just want to sit around the house. I want to get out and do things!” said JB. “I could see myself being part of YMCA for a long time.”
When you give to United Way, you're not just making a donation. You're changing a life. JB, Diego, and YMCA remind us all that, to live better, we must Live United.