By BRADEN LAMMERS
For Moriah Harris, students from Jeffersonville High School and River Valley Middle School are like sisters and brothers. And being at the YMCA of Southern Indiana — Clark County branch is like a home away from home.
“It’s a place where I can speak my mind and not feel like I’m not being judged for who I am,” said Harris, a 16-year-old sophomore at Jeffersonville High School. “It takes the stress off my life, it’s like a little getaway.
“Instead of going straight home after school I can come here, relax and talk about things that I’ve been going through and I feel like I can’t do that at home.”
Harris and about 30 other students gathered at the Y in Jeffersonville during the day on Tuesday — it was a snow day — to celebrate a $10,000 grant for its Diamonds and Y-Community Action Program, or Y-CAP.
AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards awarded the money from the company’s Aspire grant, which is designed to address high school dropout rates and prepare students for tomorrow.
State Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, who was also in attendance, said the grant is an important contribution to education.
“It’s just a great opportunity for you folks to take advantage of some of the things that we have to offer in our community though the YMCA and AT&T,” he said.
The YMCA of Southern Indiana needs about $85,000 to $100,000 annually for its after-school program funding that helps pay for the staff and the programs, said YMCA Executive Director Dennis Enix. Programs are hosted on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Jeffersonville and in New Albany on Mondays and Wednesdays. Combined, the program includes about 60 teens.
“Every year that money needs to be found somewhere,” Enix said.
While there are multiple sources the Y seeks funding from, the $10,000 from AT&T was a “big shot in the arm.” The Y has applied for the grant the previous two years, but this year was the first time they received the grant money.
“We only have as much programming as we’re able to raise money for,” Enix said. “This is part of us fulfilling our mission to the community.”
Those students in the programs have seen the benefits.
Colita Moore, program director at the Y, said the Diamonds and Y-CAP programs help the students set career goals, work on self-esteem and help young people make healthy decisions in their lives.
Harris said one of her favorite things that the group has done has gone on college visits. It helped her figure out what she wants to do, which is go to culinary school and become a pastry chef.
“I probably never would have thought I could do that without being in Diamonds,” she said. “I would love it if it was every day,” she added of the programs.