by Haley Waggoner –
For a few brief moments on July 24, all was quiet in the Georgetown Family YMCA building at 3010 Williams Drive. As visiting Seeds of Strength members filed in, we were greeted by the program’s director, Cathleen “Cat.” She explained that they were awaiting the arrival of kids participating in the Y Teen Time summer camp group, headed back from their outing, which included playing “Nerf Wars” at a local gym. Mr. Gattis pizza was already set out for their lunch.
We took a moment to explore the room. Cat and the staff (Nancy, Jacquelin and Jessie) have made an impressive use of the space. The word CREATE is hung at one end of the room, where tables, craft, and art supplies are neatly organized. The word DISCOVER hangs at the opposite end, where tool racks and equipment are displayed for activities like robotics and building.
When the kids returned and began having lunch, we sat down to talk with Cat to learn more about the great programming she and her staff have developed. On the large-screen TV, she shared a gallery of photos and videos of the many adventures the staff and kids had already enjoyed this summer.
The Y Teen Time program has provided a safe and enriching environment for these kids to interact with other children, push themselves mentally and physically, and to experience and serve in the local community. Daily field trips and excursions to the Georgetown Public Library and the Williamson County Museum are a few stops made so far. Swimming, slides and diving board challenges at local pools, archery and BB gun practice at Camp Burnet have all helped build confidence and ignite new interest this summer. Trips to Camp Twin Lakes in Cedar Park were especially popular; their giant swing and 6-story slide provided hours of thrills! Upcoming outings include trips to the movie theater to see Toy Story 4 and The Lion King. Visits to The Legacy Assisted-Living for games, donuts and coffee with senior residents is an initiative that the staff believes benefit the teens emotionally – they can give something back.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Cat takes advantage of the free-lunch program offered through GISD at Tippit Middle School. Other days, they make trips to Wal-Mart for grocery shopping. Group meal preparation is all part of the camp experience. Kids learn how to cook nutritious meals and work together as a team.
After they finished lunch, we watched the kids as they engaged in a lively math card game lead by Ms. Nancy. Later, they would be growing rocks with baking soda, crafting, gaming on the Wii, and even playing a free-throw game with a basketball goal set up in the room! There was no shortage of youthful energy as they participated in fun and challenging activities.
The Seeds of Strength grant of $16,000 has allowed the Georgetown YMCA, a satellite branch of the Greater Williamson County YMCA, to provide full-day summer camp for 4 weeks in July to 19 kids in grades 6-9. The funds specifically provided scholarships for kids of economically-disadvantaged families living and working in Georgetown, counselor salaries, food, and supplies. We asked why they focused on 6th- 9th graders. Cat explained that this age group frequently gets left home alone, out of necessity, by working parents during summer. These bright and energetic kids are left to entertain and care for themselves, and July is a tough month during summer break. Affordable youth programs and organizations can be hard to find. Cat and her team want to help fill that gap.
Cat said the YMCA has always had drop-in programs available, but the Seeds of Strength funding allowed her to experiment with adding structure and framework through set days and hours on which families could depend. She needed to see if there was interest from the community, and the resounding answer was “yes”! The camp is full, with several parents on a waitlist should spots become available. Cat has identified a need in our community and has plans to grow the Georgetown YMCA.
We had a great time on this site visit. It’s easy to see that this program is a worthy endeavor, directly supporting kids and families in our community. We noticed on our way out that among the art collection on the wall was a note just for us: Thank you, Seeds of Strength!
We can be proud to support our local YMCA!