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Organization Mission and Reach

The YMCAs comprise the largest not-for-profit community organization in America . The YMCA programs reach 18.3 million people yearly. In 2001 there were 2493 YMCAs in the United States . The YMCAs charge modest fees for some of their programs, but no one is turned away from a program or access to YMCA facilities because of inability to pay.

According to the YMCA Web site, the programs are tools for building the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. The Web site mentions yelping people develop values and behavior that are consistent with Christian principles and stresses that YMCAs are open to people of all ages, faiths, races, abilities and incomes. At the two local YMCAs that I visited in Seattle the .$B!H.(BChristian.$B!I.(B part wasn't mentioned on the mission statement posted by the entry desk.

YMCAs are located in medium-to-large communities. You won't find a YMCA in Colfax , WA (population 6000), but there are YMCAs in Pullman , WA (population 15,000), and Wenatchee , WA (population 40,000).

Organizational Structure

Each YMCA is independent. YMCAs are required by the national organization to pay annual dues, to refrain from discrimination and to support the YMCA mission. All other decisions are local choices. YMCAs are governed by boards of volunteers from the community. Professional staff members are hired by the board. There are usually lots of volunteers who help with various YMCA programs and tasks such as office work. The YMCAs also seek funding from local businesses. The national organization seeks funding for some of the national efforts.

How systemic are the programs?

The YMCA branches can participate in some national programs if it fits with their local needs, but they are not forced to do so. An example of a national program is the YMCA Adventure Guides program, which is for a partnership between a parent and his/her 5-9 year old child. What the Adventure Guides do depends upon the local environment. Adventure Guides in Ames , IA do different things that those in New York City . Another national program is Minority Achievers for teens. There are other national programs that emphasize environmental science, fine arts and fitness.

An example of a local YMCA program that I've worked with is the Girls of Promise program that engages middle school girls. The idea is to keep them substance-free and otherwise in balance and focusing on success in school. The part I worked with was a career exploration piece whereby I described my experiences and gave them information on careers in space sciences.

Many of the YMCAs have day camps during the summer and there are YMCA overnight camps (8 around the state of Washington ) all over the USA . The programs at these camps vary according to the local environment.

YMCAs try hard to target minority and low income populations for participation in their programs. No one is ever refused admission to a YMCA program because of inability to pay. They have lots of programs for youth and teens. Some of these programs (both national and local) offer a career component.

Does the YMCA partner with other programs?

No evidence for partnerships with other youth or family organizations currently. They do have partnerships with various entities One is going on right now with Sports Illustrated magazine. They also .$B!H.(Bpartner.$B!I.(B in the sense that YMCA has national or local partners who are corporations or foundations.


The YMCAs are certainly popular. They offer low-cost programs on a variety of themes. Millions of people are involved with the YMCAs for various reasons (fitness, programs for children and families, etc.).

There is a lot of talk about quality on the Web site. For example, in the Child Care section there is a good piece on recognizing quality in child care programs. I belong to a local YMCA for fitness reasons and they are quite concerned about the quality of instructors for classes. I don't know what sort of assessment is done on national programs like Minority Achievers.

Regarding space, most of the YWCAs have a building. Some of the smaller ones have just a couple of rooms in a private building, community center or school.


I didn't find any discussion of specific assessment techniques on the Web site.

Content Compatibility

On the national level, the Minority Achievers program and the Adventure Guides appear to be programs that would have some interest in space science content. Same for the child care services. On local levels, there are probably many things that can be done, depending on the interests of the YMCA branch. Summer overnight camps have some potential, particularly for night sky observations.


YMCA is a good prospect for NASA collaboration both at national and local levels. Best bets seem to be summer camps (day and residential), the Adventure Guides program and the career programs for youth and teens such as the Minority Achievers.

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