It’s been about 13 years since Dominique Dunn was first introduced to the Y. His mother, Natalie—who comes from a family of athletes—signed him up for the Y’s Youth Basketball League to coincide with Dominique’s growing love for basketball. From then on, the Y was Dominique’s palace—where he would spend each Saturday at open gym, playing the game he loved, fostering relationships and receiving mentorship from staff.
“I met a lot of my friends that I’m close with today,” Dominique said. “Ever since, we’d all come here on the weekends and just shoot around. We’d be here for hours. [Associate Executive Director Maurice Fears] would work with us, help us shoot. Then I kept coming here through high school.”
As a junior, Dominique joined the Central City YMCA’s Teen Achievers Program, where he says he had memorable experiences taking trips out of state, visiting universities in Washington D.C. and Tennessee.
Focused on serving students attending schools on the east side of Joliet, the Central City YMCA (CCY) and its programs have impacted countless lives. With the help of the Greater Area Joliet YMCA’s Scholarship Fund, CCY participants have opportunities to play basketball and learn how to swim as children, as well as the chance to set and achieve high education, professional and personal goals within the Teen Achievers Program as teenagers—all at little or no cost.
All in all, the Y played an important role in allowing Dominique to learn, grow and thrive and develop into the standup young man that he is today. He even works at the Y part-time, refereeing the same youth basketball games he played in as a kid, and working as a camp counselor during the summer sessions. Dominique, now 21-years-old, studies criminal justice at Joliet Junior College and plans to transfer to Northern Illinois University upon completing his associate’s degree.
Thanks to the Y’s scholarship program, Dominique’s younger brother, Jeremiah, will have the opportunity to follow in big bro’s footsteps. Jeremiah plays Youth Basketball at the Smith Family YMCA and attends the Central City YMCA’s summer camp.
“I think the scholarship program is excellent,” Natalie, the proud mother of two, said. “I think it’s great for families. We’ve definitely benefited.”
Natalie, a substitute teacher in Joliet School District, couldn’t be happier with the YMCA and all of its amenities.
“With my boys playing here at the YMCA, it gives them an opportunity to meet new people, to learn what it’s like to be on a team, to learn good sportsmanship.”
Natalie also enjoys using the wellness center, watching Jeremiah’s YBL practices and meeting fellow YBL parents.
“To me, the YMCA has more to offer. It’s a win-win situation,” Natalie said with a smile. “And I’ve encouraged other people to come to the Y and put their children in the programs here. We’ve been here—what?—thirteen years? We’re still around.”
Its members like Natalie, Dominique and Jeremiah, and stories like theirs, that make the Y such a special place in our community. We couldn’t be prouder to have hosted their YMCA journey over the past 13 years. We look forward to seeing them for many more.