YMCA provides safe alternatives for children, teenagers

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When it comes to juggling school, work and play, families look to the YMCA for support and solutions.

“We continue to strive to meet the needs of our families and the community,” said Regional Child Care Director Libby Blair of the YMCA of the Greater Tri-Valley. “Our programs provide safe spaces that comply with state and local guidelines, resources to help families navigate the demands of school and work schedules, and opportunities to be active and healthy.”

Child watch:

Children ages 3-12 can play and socialize under the watchful eye of trained staff while parents utilize the facilities or attend fitness classes in the Rome Family and Oneida YMCAs. Masks are required at all times and capacities are limited for adequate social distancing. Cleaning precautions have been increased, with sanitizing prior to, between, and after groups. Children are invited to bring a favorite toy to limit toy sharing. 

Registration is easy by accessing schedules through the YMCA mobile app, on the website at www.ymcatrivalley.org or by calling the YMCA’s main telephone number. 

Before/after
school programs:

YMCA Before and After School programs, previously held at schools prior to the pandemic, continue in the Rome, Oneida and New Hartford branches.

Students do not need a YMCA membership. Additional information, including telephone numbers, can be found at www.ymcatrivalley.org. To enroll, call or email Director Libby Blair at eblair@ymcatrivalley. All three locations are accepting students.

Virtual learning:

The YMCA Virtual Learning Program provides grade-appropriate study and learning pods with assigned Learning Coaches for elementary through high school students. The coaches are at a student’s side during a virtual classroom lesson, to answer homework questions or to help when technology isn’t working as expected. Twelve to fifteen students are grouped in quiet rooms that comply with state and local guidelines for safety, cleanliness and social distancing.

Wi-Fi is provided at every location to support video chats, streaming media and other online school demands. Each student brings a personal device, headphones and appropriate school supplies.

“What makes the YMCA’s Virtual Learning program stand out is the opportunity for students to participate in age-appropriate enrichment or fitness activities when their school time is complete,” Blair added. “Spirit, mind and body wellness is what the Y is known for.”

For more information about the elementary virtual learning program, contact Libby Blair, eblair@ymcatrivalley.org or call her Monday, Wednesday or Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 315-336-3500, ext. 226 or Tuesday and Thursday at 315-797-4787.

The teen virtual learning program, in collaboration with Rome Free Academy Principal Brian LeBaron and Assistant Principal Kelly Bowles, allows Rome Free Academy students to come to the YMCA to participate in their daily classes and do their homework.

Teen Program Coordinator Sahrena Engram serves as a mentor and facilitator among the students, parents, school principals, guidance counselors and teachers.

The free program is open to any Rome Free Academy student. Transportation may be available to and from the program. For additional information and enrollment, students should contact their guidance counselor or the Rome YMCA, 315-336-3500, 301 W. Bloomfield St.

“Upon learning that a number of students weren’t using the video or microphone during virtual learning, we suggested they might feel more comfortable or at ease at the YMCA,” explained Engram. “We also understand the challenges many students are having with the lack of social and emotional connections with their peers in addition to the lack of physical activity for most students leading to weight gain and mood swings.”

“There is no better place to address these challenges than the Rome YMCA, whose mission is to ‘put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all,’” Engram said. 

Teddy Allah, a Rome Free Academy senior, learned about the program from his guidance counselor.

“Not having internet access at home presented a huge challenge,” he said. “But, the Y offered a solution! It’s a great environment with friendly staff, and I am able to get my work done.”

When asked about his favorite part of the program, Allah said that he is encouraged because he is with other students who also think it’s important to do well in school. 

Students of all ages have access to the gyms, basketball courts, racquet sports, and a variety of snacks are provided. 

“The Virtual Learning Program helps provide peace of mind for busy parents,” Engram said. “In a time when parents are needed to supplement teachers, the YMCA gives them the support they need.”

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