As an elite athlete I believe it is important to give back to the communities that have helped and supported us along the way, and who continue to give generously to allow us to pursue Olympic dreams. I owe a lot to the athletic and academic communities that helped me to learn about myself, about competition, about fair play and respect; there have been innumerable coaches and teachers who donated their time to me as I was growing up to make sure that I had access to opportunities to compete and play.
Now, some twenty-odd years after it all began with my first basketball camp as a second grader, I’ve found my place to give back to young athletes and families in my community.
I used to drive past the Princeton Family YMCA facility on early mornings in 2006 and 2007 on my way to the boathouse. The dance studio windows facing the street were always lit up with a morning aerobics class in full swing as we drove past–the only other notable signs of life around Princeton at that time of day. Now, after having been been an employee at the Y for the past three years, I know that that class is the faithful “Early Birds” who meet every day at the same time to get their day started with a cardio workout while the rest of Princeton snoozes. It was this loyal group that first attracted me to the YMCA, and now the longer I stay, the more I identify with the Early Birds’ mentality, and embrace the mission of the Y.
Through the Y I’ve met and befriended many of our youth members and their families; as well as our older members, many of whom are well in to their 70s and 80s but still make time to visit the Y every day. Despite not being a brand new facility, our Y is still a home base community that offers fun, wholesome youth and family activities for the greater Princeton area.
What many people don’t realize about the Y is that we are a not-for-profit charitable organization. In 2010 the Princeton Y gave out over $100,000 in scholarships and financial aid in order to provide day care, after school care, summer camp, and access to youth sports and aquatics programming to members in need. We believe that Y programs should be available to everyone; and rely on our members and the rest of our community heavily in order to ensure that all Princeton families can find a safe place to grow, play and compete at the Y.
There are currently four USTC athletes who work part time at the YMCA in order to help cover the cost of living and training in Princeton. The Y has invested a great amount of faith in our goals by allowing us to travel, train and compete for extended periods of time without working, and always has a place for us to come back to when we return. My role has changed at the YMCA since my early days–I have recently transitioned from the membership desk to working more behind the scenes (but also on the front lines…) as the Princeton YMCA’s Social Media Coordinator. I am slowly working on developing and improving the Y’s social media presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter (@PrincetonYMCA). Check us out!
The Princeton Y has been a fixture in the Princeton community for over 100 years. I am proud to be a part of an organization that is working all the time to create opportunities for our youth members and their families to develop valuable skills that will last them a lifetime. Now more than ever we need to come together to focus on healthy ways to change our lifestyle to live longer, happier, and healthier.
Long Live the Dream.