Evanston and Joliet Y Achievers Join Forces On College Tour

For the first time, the McGaw YMCA and the Greater Joliet Area YMCA joined forces to send more than 70 Y Achievers high school students on a three-day Spring Break College Tour to seven schools in Tennessee.

The recent tour brought together more than 70 high school students from the two organizations who participate in the Y Achievers program. Y Achievers provides an essential safety net for high school students at risk of not completing high school or continuing on to higher education. Many of those who participate are the first in their families to consider attending college.

The students were immersed in a variety of higher learning institutions to broaden their understanding of possible options. They spent time at private schools like Christian Brothers University, public universities such as Tennesee State, and Historically Black Colleges & Universities like Fisk University.

“The college bus tour is the highlight of the year for our Teen Achievers,” said Maurice Fears, the Greater Joliet Area YMCA’s Executive Director of Teen and Young Adult Advancement. “The experiences these young people gain over a three to four day span can be life-changing. This year’s trip was made even more special because they got to share this milestone trip with new friends and fellow Achievers from the McGaw YMCA.”

Plus, the two Y Achievers groups got to broaden their friendships by getting to know each other through group “off the record” discussions where they shared their worries, and hopes, for college.

“It gave the students an opportunity to build community together,” said Jace Smith, manager of the McGaw YMCA Y Achievers. “They may come from different parts of Illinois, but they’re experiencing some of the same challenges.”

While freshmen through seniors went on the trip, seeing colleges up close was particularly inspiring for the juniors, who returned facing SAT tests and the prospect of college applications.

McGaw Y Achiever Kirkland Codd, said he learned the most not from college tour guides or professors, but from the students themselves. At each of the seven Tennessee colleges they visited, the Achievers had to approach a student and ask them about their freshman experience.

“The websites don’t always give you the full truth,” Kirkland said, “but the students let us know from their perspective. They kept saying, ‘You really got to stay on top of your books or else you’ll fall behind.’”

The McGaw YMCA (www.mcgawymca.org) is a cause-driven, charitable organization that seeks to strengthen community with a focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Through a continuum of programs, the McGaw YMCA has positively impacted the Evanston community for more than 130 years.

The Greater Joliet Area YMCA has been serving families—regardless of age, income or background—from throughout Will County and its surrounding areas since 1928. A mainstay in the Joliet community for more than 85 years, the Y brings families closer together, encourages good health, and fosters connections through fitness, sports, fun and shared interests.