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Friday, February 17, 2023 ******************************* For Immediate Release

A Community Update from Dryades YMCA Board Chairman, Bishop Tom Watson

Dryades YMCA - Bishop Tom Watson

NEW ORLEANS, LA (2/17/2023) - As the newly elected board chairman (as of August 2022) of the Dryades YMCA, I am happy to report to you that The YMCA is turning the corner, while we still work toward overcoming some lingering challenges of the recent past due to the closing of the James Singleton Charter School. I assure you that the current board of directors is working fervently at shoring up the continuity of this Central City legacy institution which has operated since 1905 as an integral part of New Orleans and the greater metropolitan area. As chairman, I am overseeing the changes that are necessary to stabilize our operations and ensure the viability of the organization, ridding it of operational inefficiencies that have plagued this century-old institution.

We all recognize the historical role that the Dryades YMCA has played in providing services for the black community, particularly during periods of racialized segregation it was the beacon provider of educational, recreational, and social services that met the beneficial needs of African American children, youth, and families. It is in that spirit we will continue to carry forth the legacy of service to this community. Recent developments at the "Y" demonstrate this commitment and provides an optimistic outlook for the future.

Under the current board’s leadership, a new strategic partnership has been formed between the City of New Orleans Office of Job 1 and the Dryades YMCA, which will bring Job 1’s operations to the Dryades Y Myrtle Banks Building on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. This is not just a tenant and landlord relationship but a flagship partnership with the ‘"Y" that will yield vocational training opportunities and other workforce initiatives.

For our youth, this summer (2023) we plan a repeat of the Zion Williamson Youth Basketball Camp and the Y’s traditional youth summer camp program. We will provide more information on these opportunities as summer draws near.

At the "Y" it is also our goal to continue to provide this community with access to affordable childcare. Our early childhood education program is under new management, with the newly appointed Director, Stephanie Cockerham, who boasts 30 years of experience working in high-quality childcare centers around town, Cockerham plans to import those quality enhancements that she’s worked under to the "Y"’s early childhood program by making immediate upgrades to the facilities and curriculum. Accordingly, we are nearly doubling the childcare center’s current capacity from 40 toddlers to serve more children and to accommodate an ever-growing waitlist. Ms. Cockerham is prioritizing the implementation of the Creative Curriculum, which is a research-based best practice curriculum for early childhood, and advancing the professional development of our entire staff.

As spiritual leader in this community, I am making it a priority to restore the faith component which represents the “C” in YMCA, the organization whose local mission is derived from the parent organization “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” Doing this will put renewed focus on holistic wellness through the "Y"s Wellness Center. As we see it, spirituality is the triad to physical and mental well-being. So, the Health and Wellness Center at the "Y" will also see a facelift, making the programs more relevant and accessible to the community, especially seniors—and taking a more holistic approach.” A partnership with the Council on Aging will soon bring forth daytime recreational activities for seniors. Promoting healthy eating through the Cyber Café, which the organization plans to launch, reminiscent of deli counters operated at the "Y" during the 1960-70s when Blacks had limited access to food establishments. The modern version is intended to bring the community together and provide access to high-speed Wi-Fi and is planned to be located at the old library building.

To continue the momentum and bring a refreshed operating culture to The Dryades YMCA, the board looks forward to engaging in our upcoming strategic planning with the Y USA to chart a new future. At this time, we are actively seeking new board members who are energized and ready to take the Dryades YMCA to new heights in its potential for this community. If you are interested in nominating someone from this community to serve, then please contact our front office at (504)208-9877

Dryades YMCA - Reopening_With_Care_logo
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