The Itasca County Family YMCA is making some significant changes and improvements to its youth programming.

As Executive Director Nick Hansen explained, earlier this year the Y started to evaluate its child care, school age and youth membership opportunities in order to reformat them to better respond to community needs and engage with youth. The evaluation included the utilization of existing space, parent surveys and financial analysis. The end result was new pricing structures, a reconfiguration of space, and improved curriculums, all in an effort to meet community needs, bring more value to youth, and position the early child care program for expansion.

“The Y is striving to meet the community need for child care,” said Hansen.

With the knowledge that a study found Itasca County has a gap of approximately 500 in early child care opportunities, Hansen said the Y wants to do its part in responding to this challenge.

“Currently we serve about 70 children, from infants to preschool and we’re really proud to be able to sustain that given the challenge in our community,” Hansen explained. “So we looked at how we’re

using the facility’s space and how we can improve.”

The Y conducted a membership survey throughout the month of March when membership is typically at its peak. During this time, membership demographics were also compiled. From this information, Hansen said they found what systems and procedures were working and what needed improving.

“We looked at how we can make a lasting impact and bring more value to the community in the longer term,” he added.

At the time, the child care area was at 5,200 square feet with one room used mostly for before and after school activities only meaning it was vacant during the bulk of the day. To make more use of the space, the Y added another toddler room for children two to three years in age.

With the addition of the toddler room, the Y is able to enroll 16 more children in its child care programming.

“This change creates a model for child care that’s more efficient,” said Hansen.

Another addition is a new Kindergarten Readiness Curriculum for children ages four to five.

“We know parents want more than that daycare model,” Hansen explained. “And we want to do more to prepare kids for school.”

According to Hansen, the Y has also added a new afterschool state-certified program called End-Zone which is specifically designed for first through fifth grade students. They have also increased staff during after school hours to allow for more supervision of the children who rely on the Y as a safe place to go after school.

“Kids not enrolled in a program are always welcome at the Y and in the Active Living Center which is free and open space available to the community,” said Hansen who explained that a snack is provided to children after school at the Y.

A new low YMCA membership price for youth ages 10-18 of $22/month is now an option as well.

“The Y is bringing more value to youth,” added Hansen. “As always financial assistance is available for membership and youth programs. Through generous contributions and grants the Itasca County Family YMCA strives to never turn anyone away due to an inability to pay.”

For more information about YMCA programming and membership, visit www.ymcaitasca.org or call the Y at 218-327-1161.

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