When you’re too old for summer camp but not old enough to get a job, it can be easy for summer boredom to set in. But, several tweens and teens found that volunteering and learning at the Don Sjogren Community YMCA was a great way to stay active and prevent summer boredom.
Ashlee Johnson, 15, enjoyed playing in Child Watch as a child. Her mom, Kathy, began working in Child Watch when she was 5, and she loved tagging along with her.
This past summer, Ashlee learned the other side of Child Watch and volunteered nearly 100 hours in the program. She also volunteered in the YMCA Summer Lunch and Jr. Lifeguard programs.
“It gives me something to do so I don’t have to be bored all the time,” Ashlee said.
Ashlee’s favorite volunteer time was in Child Watch. She loves working with children and hopes to be a preschool teacher someday. Her experience at the Y gave her an opportunity to learn about changing diapers, the rules of Child Watch and how to relate well with young children. She said the experience reinforced her desire to work with children in the future.
Ashlee also volunteered to pour drinks at the YMCA Kids Café, which is a free summer lunch program organized by the YMCA. This past summer, the Kids Café served 1,529 meals.
Ashlee also loves to swim and was one of seven participants who took part in the YMCA’s new Jr. Lifeguarding program. Eva Forkner, 11, also participated.
YMCA Aquatics Coordinator Heather Smith said she started the Jr. Lifeguard program to offer middle school youth an opportunity to learn and see what the lifeguard does “behind the scenes” through a fun, hands-on experience.
“My goal for Jr. Lifeguard is to educate and give the experience of the basic lifeguard techniques and responsibilities,” Heather said. “Also, I wanted to stress the importance of volunteering, helping with job references (filling out applications, interviews, resumes) and building confidence.”
The class met twice a week in June. After participants passed the class, they could volunteer and shadow a lifeguard on duty. They each set goals that ranged from 87 to 174 volunteer hours.
Those who met their goals receive their next level of lifeguard training free of charge. The participants also became CPR certified.
“All the participants worked so hard in class and in volunteering,” Heather said. “It was awesome to see the lifeguards encourage and help the Jr. Lifeguards on and off the deck.”
Both Eva and Ashlee said they were surprised to learn about the “blind spots” in the pool and how important it is for lifeguards to walk around the pool and be extra vigilant. They enjoyed learning how to check the pool chemicals.
This past summer, Eva also participated in the Leaders in Training Program.
She was one of six youth enrolled in the program, which was in partnership with the Nebraska Extension. Participants learned what it means to be a leader, qualities of a leader and completed service projects that included planting flowers with residents at Christian Homes, playing BINGO with Mosaic clients, volunteering in YMCA youth programs and odd jobs like pulling weeds.
After the training, kids could become Jr. Camp Counselors for YMCA Summer Camps, which Eva did this summer.
Both Ashlee and Eva said their experiences at the Y this summer kept the boredom away and encouraged them to pursue jobs at the YMCA in the future.