YMCA participants gathered at St. Ignatius Catholic School over the weekend for the 4th annual YMCA Leaders for Youth conference to learn from each other and to grow as leaders in the community.

Attendees took part in a two-day workshop that focused on developing the character of teens, overcoming challenging behaviors, discovering your inner child, understanding children’s temperaments, connecting with parents, personal care, and mental health awareness.

The conference also provided leadership training for YMCA program coordinators and professionals. It included trips to Bodden Town, Clifton Hunter, East End and Edna M. Moyle after-school sites for visiting YMCA partners from Greater St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Westfield Area Y in New Jersey.

Joel Francis, acting chief officer for the Ministry of Education and Youth, in his remarks at the conference’s opening session on Saturday morning, told participants, “I trust that each of you will come away from this conference with your resolve strengthened, your enthusiasm stirred and your creativity increased as you sharpen the tools and skills you already have, in order to launch a successful attack on those distractions and detractors that would try to steal what rightfully belongs to our children and youth – their future.“

He added that the ministry’s partnership with the YMCA was a successful one and that the Government Extended After-School Program run by the Y was “a great example of public and private entities coming together and making a meaningful impact.”

He noted that 100 YMCA staff reach more than 1,300 young people each year at nine sites serving 15 schools across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

YMCA Cayman Islands CEO Greg Smith, in his comments, said the Leaders for Youth Conference is always an empowering event for those who serve the community.

“We all come with different backgrounds, cultures, world views and experiences, [but] we are all united around the Y’s core values of honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and faith, and this realization makes it so much easier to work together to make our country a better place,” he said.

YMCA leaders from St. Petersburg, Florida, and New Jersey attend the conference.

He added that the theme of this year’s conference, “Special Forces,” was a powerful one.

“Each day we battle against destructive forces that steal opportunities from our children to reach their full potential,” he said. “Just like military elite forces, we have to become militant, creative and single-minded in our efforts to capture the attention, engage the hearts, and inspire the minds of our youth so that they can fulfill their purpose on Earth.

“I believe participants this year have come away with a renewed sense of commitment and determination to make a difference in the lives of Cayman’s children and youth and the general community.” The conference workshops were led by local community partners, including the National Drug Council, Family Resource Centre, Alex Panton Foundation and international partners.

For information about the YMCA Cayman Islands, visit www.ymcacayman.ky, email [email protected] or call 926-9622.

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