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A new study shows K-5 students who participate in afterschool activities receive higher math scores. University of California/Irvine researchers also discovered other correlated benefits including better work ethic and higher grades, with low-income students reaping especially large benefits. Studies like this show the value of high-quality afterschool programs, like Y Success Afterschool.
Recently, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) sent a film crew to document the impactful work the Tampa Y and YMCA of the Suncoast are doing with Success Afterschool. The result is this moving video full of honest feedback from students, parents, principals, teachers and counselors. “The school system increasingly is telling us they recognize they can’t do it all by themselves and they need powerful organizations, like the Y, to work with them and help them and assist them,” says Tampa Y President & CEO Tom Looby. “So, that’s why we’re doing this work; to help kids get on a path to success.”
The high correlation of poverty and low literacy skills to poor academic performance has been proven in many studies. The Tampa Y is committed to closing the academic achievement gap between children from low-income households and their middle/upper-income counterparts with a focus on academics in Y Success Afterschool, Pre-K, VPK and several other youth development programs. For more details, head to www.tampaymca.org.
Caption: Click on the video to see how the Success Afterschool program at the Tampa Y and the YMCA of the Suncoast is helping close the academic achievement gap.
At only 17 years old, Elijah Rodriguez is already learning lessons in leadership and networking. As a Teen Leader at the East Pasco Family YMCA, he also serves on the branch’s Advisory Board. Although Elijah is the youngest board member, he plays a vital role. “I’ve never been in a situation where I sat down with the executive director of the Y, people from City Hall, the school board and businesses. So, it was a little daunting at first, but after awhile, I became used to it and it actually has opened a tremendous amount of doors for me,” shares Elijah.
One of the doors opened to a summer gig as a Y camp counselor. “It really was a life-changing experience for me. It’s amazing because for a lot of kids, with low-income backgrounds, summer camp can be the only positive thing going on in their lives,” says Elijah. “When I realized that, it meant so much more. Growing with these kids, being the cause of their happiness throughout the day, learning about them and getting attached - it was a fulfilling experience.”
In addition to having a voice in the community and giving back to those in need, Elijah is also growing as a person. “I hope a lot of kids our age realize what we do now can help determine the rest of our lives,” says Elijah. “In Teen Leaders’ Club, we’re not only volunteering in the community and helping out the Y; we’re also bettering our lives. We’re getting opportunities that we wouldn’t get with any other organization or club.”
Teen Leaders’ Club helps build a solid, positive foundation for youth through the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Elijah is just one of hundreds of young faces at the Y learning what it truly means to be a leader. Together, they are building the future, for themselves and the community. “You’re out there making a difference,” testifies Elijah. Stop by your local Y to learn more about the Teen Leaders in your community.
Cutline: Elijah Rodriguez is a Teen Leader representative on the East Pasco Y’s Advisory Board.
At first, Karen Smith-Robinson was apprehensive about enrolling her son, Jaden, into Y Success Afterschool at the Bob Sierra Family YMCA. “I was concerned that he wouldn’t fit in because of his developmental delays and behavior issues,” recalls Karen. “But I was pleasantly surprised by how the staff stepped up and made Jaden feel like family.”
Now, Jaden has a safe and healthy place to go after school to learn foundational skills, develop healthy, trusting relationships and build self-reliance through the Y values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Karen has seen her son flourish at the Y. “Since being here, Jaden has grown tremendously and his social skills and behavior as well as his language skills have improved beyond my expectations,” says Karen.
The working mother also appreciates the affordability and convenience of the quality afterschool program. She says, “The hours work really well and are flexible for working families. I love the different activities that my son participates in and the personal care that each child receives here.” Most of all, Karen loves the way her boy is welcomed at the Y. “I owe this all to the staff at the YMCA. They have gone above and beyond for me and Jaden and I will be forever grateful. I’ve already recommended several families here,” claims Karen.
In the Y's Success Afterschool program, children in grades K-5 receive academic enrichment, homework help and healthy nutritional snacks. They also participate in fun physical activity while certified instructors care for the total child and benefit the entire family by infusing successful values in every student. Y Success Afterschool is available at 29 elementary schools across Hillsborough County, plus at the following Y facilities/branches:
• Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA in Seminole Heights: 813.229.9622
• Bob Sierra Family YMCA in Carrollwood: 813.962.3220
• Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA in Town 'n Country: 813.249.8510
• YMCA Camp Cristina in Riverview: 813.677.8400
• Sulphur Springs YMCA @ Sulphur Springs Elementary School: 813.924.4207
For more information, contact the Y's Childcare Services Office at 813.223.2895.
Cutline: Jaden attends Y Success Afterschool at the Bob Sierra Y.
Hundreds of Sulphur Springs residents got a healthy start to the summer thanks to the Tampa Y, The Junior League of Tampa, Children's Board of Hillsborough County and other community partners. The Junior League of Tampa spearheaded a free Family Food Fest in the community on May 17th.
On this Saturday afternoon in Springhill Community Park, more than 120 families got to take home free food provided by Feeding America’s mobile pantry. They also learned how to make healthy meals from Celebrity Chef George Stella, an official spokesperson for the Association of Junior Leagues International’s Kids in the Kitchen initiative and a frequent guest on the Food Network. Tampa Bay Rays’ Raymond, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Thunderbug and cheerleaders also made special appearances.
Amidst all the fun, families participated in different educational stations, including family literacy where they received free books and learned ways to help kids avoid summer learning loss. Guest speakers also taught residents about ways to help prevent childhood obesity.
None of this would be possible without the leadership of The Junior League of Tampa and generosity of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Together we are strengthening the Sulphur Springs community!
Cutline: The Sulphur Springs Y teamed up with the Junior League of Tampa and Children’s Board of Hillsborough County to host a free Family Food Fest in Sulphur Springs.
Nearly 1,000 more students across the nation now have the opportunity to beat the summer learning loss. The summer slide is the educational ground children could lose during the three-month break from school, particularly when it comes to reading.
Tampa is one of nearly 30 cities selected to implement the Summer Learning Loss Prevention (SLLP) program. It’s all part of the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA)’s efforts to help improve the academic readiness and success of children in low-income environments. Students in the SLLP program typically gain three months in reading proficiency during a free six-week summer program. This success is largely due to the fact that SLLP uses certified teachers, hired directly from the schools we serve.
This is the Tampa Y’s third year implementing SLLP at B.C. Graham Elementary School. One success story involves 7-year-old Kiara Mullens. Last summer, Kiara was engaged in literacy work, enrichment activities, swimming and field trips. “We do self-selected reading and a lot of times when the teacher is reading she does funny voices with the characters,” recalls Kiara.
The 2nd grader really took an interest in reading during the program. She says, “I like lots of books. I like to read about animals and how they live.” She even experienced a boost in her self-confidence over the summer. “In school, I’m very good. I’m almost smarter than the whole country,” claims Kiara. She says her mother appreciated the free summer program. “It helps my mommy save a lot of money and the other programs cost a lot of money to be there. She only gets paid on Friday and she’s looking for another job.”
From swimming to museum trips to handwriting lessons, Kiara says her mother always wants to hear about her day. “She asks me every day after summer school if I had a good day and I say, ‘Yes,’ and I tell her where we go for field trips and I tell her it’s fun,” recalls Kiara. “Now, she smiles all the time.”
If you want to learn more about the Y’s SLLP program, contact Executive Director Candace Culver at
or 813-223-2895 ext. 1251.
Cutline: L to R: Lourdes Romero, Kiara Mullens, Justice Gennari.
Mostly everyone has heard of the YMCA, but few knew the Y hosts a National Gymnastics Championship each year. But now, ALL of Tampa Bay knows about it. For the first time, the Tampa Y and Sarasota Y teamed up to host one of the largest championships to date with competitors coming from as far away as California and New York.
The three-day competition kicked off July 2nd with an Olympic-style opening ceremony at Raymond James Stadium. The “Treasures Discovered” theme was complete with pirates, beads and nearly 1,800 gymnasts “invading” the stadium. Then, for three days straight at the Tampa Convention Center, Y athletes rotated from bars to floor to beam to vault.
The Tampa YMCA was well represented at the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships. The Bob Sierra YMCA had over 60 gymnasts compete while the North Brandon Y had over 20 gymnasts compete during the three day competition. Both teams had successful meets with many gymnasts placing in individual events as well as the All Around Competition.
Following is a list of gymnasts who place in the top three in their level and age group.
Top Flight Bob Sierra:
Luke LaPointe - Tied for 3rd on Floor
Jackson Byam - Tied for 3rd on Rings and Vault
CJ Hovan - Tied for 3rd on Vault
Xander Pascua - 1st on Vault, 2nd on High Bar
Tyler Sussman - Tied for 2nd on Rings
Cody Mead - Tied for 3rd on Vault
Brady Boyer - Tied for 2nd on Vault
Cheyenne Booth - 3rd on Bars, 2nd on Floor, 3rd Place All Around
Daisy Pitchford - 2nd on Vault, Tied for 2nd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Tatiana Restrepo - Tied for 3rd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam, 2nd on floor, 3rd Place All Around
Angela Galbraith - 2nd on Balance Beam
Sofia Marotta - 2nd on Vault
Remi Helms - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Floor
Chloe Troyer - 2nd on Floor
Kimberly Taylor - 3rd on Vault
Kira McClard - 1st on Vault, 3rd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 1st on Floor, 1st Place All Around
Abby Vazquez - 2nd on Balance Beam
Baleigh Pennington - 2nd on Floor
Gracie Tramel - 1st on Vault, 2nd on Bars, 2nd on Floor, 1st Place All Around
Marisa Sapienza - 3rd on floor
Nya Hill - 3rd on Bars
Evelyn Arbogast - 1st on Balance Beam, 3rd Place All Around
Madison Pickett - 3rd Place Vault, 2nd on Bars, 2nd on Balance Beam
Jadyn Taylor - Tied for 3rd on Bars
Gretchen Strunk - 1st on Bars, 2nd on Balance Beam, 3rd on Floor, 2nd Place All Around
Lauren Shields - 1st on Balance Beam, 3rd on Floor
Anna Mersinger - 1st on Vault, , 2nd on Floor
Lisa Cochran - 1st on Bars, 1st on Floor, 1st Place All Around
Taylor LaPointe - 3rd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Emma Barton - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam
Destiny Garcia - 1st on Bars, 3rd on Floor
Hanna Barton - 2nd on Floor
• Destiny Garcia qualified to compete in the Level 8 All Around Finals on Saturday, July 5th by placing on the Top 25 of 100 girls. She tied for 7th Place All Around during Saturday Finals.
• Top Flight Bob Sierra Level 8 Team received the highest combined floor score out of 23 teams. Level 8 team members are Destiny Garcia, Hanna Barton, Jenny Teixiera, Marina Roberts and Jazmin Sobotker
Top Flight North Brandon
Abigail Williamson - 3rd on Vault, 2nd on Balance Beam
Alessandra Cappucci - 2nd on Vault, 3rd on Bars, 1st on Floor, 2nd Place All Around
Kelsey Stone - 1st on Vault, 1st on Floor
Desiree Scott - 1st on Balance Beam, 2nd on Floor
Natalia Collaza - 3rd on Vault, 3rd on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Maria Abreu - 1st on Vault, 2nd on Bars, 1st on Balance Beam, 1st Place All Around
Laura Bergman - 3rd on Bars, 3rd on Floor
Savannah Finn - 2nd on Balance Beam
Kaitlyn Sewell - 2nd on Vault, 2nd on Balance Beam, 2nd Place All Around
Alycea LaHay - 2nd on Vault
Lexi Kirshner - 2nd on Vault, 2nd on Floor
Ariya Harris - 1st on Floor, 2nd on Bars, 3rd on Balance Beam, 1st Place Around
More than 400 volunteers, including YMCA staff, dedicated their holiday week doing everything from setting up gym mats, to handing out awards and timing. The Tampa Y wants to send a huge ‘thank you’ to the sponsors, volunteers, competitors, coaches and judges for helping pull off a wonderful event. The 2014 National Gymnastics Championships attracted over 6,000 athletes, spectators and visitors to the community resulting in an estimated $4.5 million economic impact to the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Y was honored to serve as host and hope we made everyone feel welcome in Tampa Bay and the Y!
The Tampa Y recognizes the following organizations for their support in nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility:
American Athletic, Inc. (AAI)
Graphix Screen Printing
McDonald’s Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Sports Commission
Tampa Sports Authority
The Home Depot
Visit Tampa Bay
Cutline: The Bob Sierra YMCA Top Flight Gymnastics team enjoys getting together at Opening Ceremonies outside Raymond James Stadium.
The Tampa YMCA is committed to saving lives in our community. It's why drowning prevention is a top priority in our strategic plan. And as we work hard to provide more water safety resources and knowledge to the community, we are excited to announce two new partnerships this year to help save more lives.
Earlier this month, the South Tampa Family YMCA served as the backdrop of a press conference to launch the “Be Water Smart from the Start” summer partnership with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, in partnership with United Way Suncoast, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and Juvenile Welfare Board, are spearheading a generous $100,000 gift to fund several drowning prevention summer initiatives at the Tampa Y, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and YMCA of the Suncoast.
“I’m pleased to be a part of this initiative,” said Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist at the press conference. “My wife and I have two kids; a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and it’s so important for us to be careful with them around water. The things families can do to prevent accidental drowning are of upmost importance when you’re around water.”
The gift will also go toward providing more free swim lessons to at-risk children and more swim scholarships to deserving families. Additional in-kind support from the Rays include game, radio and TV public service announcements; an achievement award for participating kids; and branch visits from the team’s mascot, Raymond. The Y is looking forward to strengthening our partnership with the Rays in the years to come.
The Y is also teaming up with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to launch a statewide Water Safety Campaign. We launched this collaboration at the South Tampa Y during Memorial Day week. The Water Safety Campaign urges parents and caregivers to keep your “Eyes on the Kids” at all times when children have access to water. In addition, the campaign brings together resources for swim lessons and highlights the importance of teaching all children in Florida how to swim.
“Our state loses more children under the age of five to drowning than any other state in the nation,” DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said. “Parents and caregivers must be vigilant about keeping their eyes on children around water. Taking extra precautions can save a child’s life.”
Tampa YMCA Aquatics Executive Amanda Walker made an exciting announcement during the press conference. “The Tampa YMCA plans to expand the nationwide Y SPLASH program to all our family branches next year. The SPLASH program offers the entire community free swim lessons at their local Ys for a whole week in March, said Walker.
As you can see, the Tampa Y is going above and beyond to ensure not one more child drowns in Florida. Many of our initiatives wouldn’t be possible without strong collaborations with community organizations, like the Rays, DCF, DOH, Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and United Way Suncoast. It’s why we were honored to host both press conferences at the South Tampa Y. Together, we are saving lives!
Cutline: Two press conferences recently took place at the South Tampa Y to announce two different drowning prevention partnerships with the YMCA.
“Words can’t really express our gratitude to you and what you’ve done to help us, through our partnership, make recreation affordable and accessible for a lot of families in this community. It means a lot,” Vice Chair Sandra L. Murman told Tampa YMCA President & CEO Tom Looby.
“It’s fun to think about 125 years of service in Hillsborough County but I think what’s even more fun is to think about the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives that have been touched by the YMCA over that time period,” replied Looby. “On behalf of the Governance Board, thank you for assisting us in 125 years. We look forward to the next 125 years of serving Hillsborough County residents.”
Today, the Tampa Y includes ten family facilities, four wellness centers, two golf facilities, a community learning center in Sulphur Springs, an outdoor adventure camp in Riverview, a youth and family center in Carrollwood, 33 afterschool program sites and The Family Y at Big Bend Road, currently under construction in Gibsonton. Through these sites and dozens of community outreach projects, the Tampa Y serves more than 167,000 children, teens, active older adults, cancer survivors, chronically-ill community members, at-risk youth, infants, toddlers and families each year.
“It’s an honor for me to be a member of the YMCA and to be one of the 167,000 folks that the Y touched last year,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan. “We’re all familiar with the afterschool programs, summer camps and youth sports but the Y touches folks from every sector in our community in so many different ways; from diabetes prevention to swimming lessons to backpack outreach, to help children prepare for school, and to a community garden in Sulphur Springs.”
Many thanks to the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners for the special recognition and for its generous support of the Y!
Cutline: L to R Front: Tampa Y Governance Board Vice Chair Al Colby, Tampa Y President & CEO Tom Looby, BOCC Vice Chair Sandra L. Murman; Back: Commissioners Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Chair Mark Sharpe, Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr., and Kevin Beckner
It's been a successful start to the summer for the Tampa Y! Earlier this month, we broke ground on a new gymnastics center at the Bob Sierra Youth and Family Center in Carrollwood. More than 100 guests, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and other community leaders, attended the groundbreaking ceremony on June 4th.
“As a member of the Bob Sierra Y, I have the opportunity to see first-hand the incredible impact the Y has on children and families,” said Commissioner Hagan. “This facility will improve the quality of life for thousands in Northwest Hillsborough and is just the latest example on how the Y is always there and responding to needs in our community.”
The new 11,500-square-foot gymnastics center will provide continued opportunities for kids in the community to get active and fight the childhood obesity epidemic. It will also provide a physically and emotionally enriching environment where almost double the number of students can take advantage of our quality programs and services.
“We serve nearly 3,000 kids in our current gymnastics area,” said Bob Sierra Y Capital Campaign Chair Dena Shimberg. “With the new gymnastics center, we will be able to serve over 5,000 kids, as well as a more diverse program menu to help serve children and families in our community.”
The Tampa Y anticipates the $1.7 million gymnastics center to be completed later this fall. Many thanks to our passionate donors, volunteers and parents for giving more young athletes the opportunity to reach their full potential on and off the gym mats!
The groundbreaking comes just one month ahead of the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championship hosted July 1st - 5th by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Sarasota Family Y at the Tampa Convention Center. The national event is expected to draw over 5,800 athletes, spectators and visitors to the community resulting in a $4.5 million economic impact to the Tampa Bay area. If you’re interested in volunteering, attending or learning more about the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships, check out www.ymcagymnationals.org. Good luck to all of the Y competitors!
Cutline: Bob Sierra Y’s Top Flight Gymnastics Team performed during the groundbreaking festivities.
12-year-old Cody Allen and his 18-year-old sister, Haley, are regulars at YMCA Camp Cristina. But summer camp took on a different meaning when doctors found tumors in their mother’s brain last year. “Her focus when she got sick was making sure they had somewhere to go for the summer,” recalls Executive Director Darren Dannelly. “That was her main focus so we’re happy to be that for her and a lot of other kids.”
Cody says while his mom recovered from several surgeries, YMCA Camp Cristina served as his escape. “I forgot about everything and just tried to have fun,” says Cody. His older sister also stepped up to be the mother of the family during the difficult time. She even embraced the mentorship role during summer camp. “Now, Haley is a counselor. So, she’s come from camper and had that relationship with the counselors; and now she’s a counselor and has that relationship back with the campers and she’s able to give back,” says Darren.
Haley and Cody’s mom is recovering well and grateful her Y family was there when she needed them the most. Darren says, “It’s been an amazing transformation for both campers, as well as their mom. We can deal with any situation and focus on building the relationships.” YMCA Camp Cristina is proud to provide a safe, nurturing environment where kids, like Haley and Cody, can go to grow in spirit, mind and body while their mother heals.
Summer camps at the Y encourage fun and friendship and provide the opportunity for young people to build self-esteem, develop interpersonal skills and make lasting memories. Summer camp also provides kids with the things they need to succeed in school by providing engaging, hands-on education-based activities that help kids avoid summer learning loss. Plus, our highly-qualified staff members receive more than 40 hours of preparation prior to interacting with campers and are CPR-certified. Click here to register on-line.
Cutline: Haley and Cody Allen have grown up together at YMCA Camp Cristina.