Four programs are getting Waynesboro students moving while also forging a partnership between Waynesboro Schools and Waynesboro YMCA.
“This is a fantastic partnership between Waynesboro Schools and the YMCA,” said Jeff Fife, Waynesboro YMCA executive director.
Fife made a presentation to the Rotary Club of Waynesboro on Thursday afternoon with an update on the programs.
The Enrichment Camp and Watersafe Wenonah programs were made possible with funding from the Rotary Club of Waynesboro. Activ8 and Inclusive programming are also available for students.
The partnership began 18 months ago after a casual conversation between Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Jeff Cassell and Fife on treadmills in the Cardio room at the YMCA.
In a follow-up conversation, Fife said he and Cassell had a long phone conversation about the possibility of a partnership.
And Fife made a presentation to Waynesboro School Board at the board’s regular meeting in November.
Through Summer Enrichment Camp last summer, from which the other three programs were created, elementary-age students spent four mornings each week for four weeks on school-related tasks, and spent afternoons on STEM learning. Forty students participated in the summer program.
Waynesboro teachers and aids helped with morning sessions.
Grant funding was also provided by Dominion Energy Virginia and community member Bob Rouse.
“It was pretty impressive the amount of energy that it’s taken to get a program this impacting and this diverse at no cost to these kids. We’re providing transportation, healthy snack, lunch, breakfast and all these activities.”
Fife said that 63 percent of students participating in the program had computers in their bedrooms at home. Sixty percent of the students had personal cell phones.
“And we’re fighting getting these kids off the screens, and getting them out and active and seeing the worlds around them,” Fife said.
Ninety-seven percent of students in the program met their exercise goal, 94 percent met their water intake goal, and 94 percent met the fruit and vegetable goal.
Students also learned water safety.
“And what we were trying to do is just get them to a point where they’d be safe in a water crisis situation,” Fife said.
Five said that minority students “are five times more likely to drown.”
The Center for Coldwaters Restoration provided funding through a grant for the Enrichment Camp.
The YMCA also partnered with breakthru LX, a learner experience design company in Rockingham.
Fife showed photos from the program, including a boy and a girl asleep on a bus after a day of fun on a field trip.
“We were exhausting these kids, and it was a really good experience,” Fife said.
Activ8 is a pilot program that began two months ago for 8th graders at Kate Collins Middle School.
The program encourages students to exercise 150 minutes per week at the YMCA while also earning a physical education credit for high school. Fife reported that 75 to 80 percent of the students who participated in the program are still seen exercising 150 minutes each week at the YMCA.
Second graders from Wenonah Elementary School are transported to the YMCA for Watersafe Wenonah. Students are taught basic water safety principles by YMCA Water Aerobics members.
“It’s pretty amazing to watch this develop. And the seniors in this class will tell you they’re getting more out of it than the kids themselves,” Fife said.
The students are learning more than just how to be water safe, but how to be “water skilled.”
William Perry Elementary students will soon also participate in the program, made possible with grant funding from Virginia Swimming and the Rotary Club of Virginia.
Lastly, Inclusive programming is making it possible for students at Waynesboro High School who have special needs to come to the YMCA and participate in wet and dry exercises in the pool, as well as peer mentoring.
Fife said that the reality is not all school systems would commit to such a partnership as Waynesboro Schools with the YMCA.
“Their creativity and their assignment to their staff to make this vision a reality of how we can better serve our kids in partnering is really awe inspiring,” Fife said.