August 01, 2017
For Joshua “Josh” Martin, the YMCA of Metro Chicago has always been a strong presence in his life. His extensive history with the YMCA consists of growing up as Y kid, while his mom was an aquatics director at the High Ridge YMCA, and he was previously a lifeguard at the Elmhurst YMCA. Now, in a leadership position as the Aquatics Team Lead at the Lattof YMCA and a Leaders Club Advisor at the Elmhurst YMCA, he recalls the impact the Y has made on him, and how he hopes to pass on the favor.
As a teen, Josh was a “leader” at the Leaders Club at the High Ridge YMCA and later at the Buehler Y, until he graduated. Leaders Club is a youth-led service group that strives to improve their community. He also attended Central Leaders School, a once a year, week-long event that takes place on a college campus to bring together members of Leaders Club from all over the midwest.
Josh’s favorite things about the club are the connections that he’s made with other participants, like Lauren Reed, a Leaders Club advisor at Irving Park YMCA, the skills that he learned and the dedication the staff has towards the development of the youth. “This is a program that is very multifaceted and impacts the individuals in the club, the Y facilities, the community around it and the Chicago community at large because of the volunteer work we do. This is a program that impacts kids, not just in the immediate time when its happening, but will continue to impact them even after they're done, after they graduate,” he explains.
Josh’s passion for the club and seeing the change it makes on youth he advises are the two main drivers that make him want to keep coming back as a volunteer advisor. One particular youth, Rhian, really flourished socially within the program, something he did not accomplish in school. Seeing that he was able to help the next generation of leaders, like Rhian, inspired Josh to want to be able to give more of that gift to more youth.
He is currently pursuing a degree in English education at the College of DuPage and plans to move into a role as a high school teacher. Leaders Club is helping him go in that direction by giving him a platform where he can practice teaching skills. Over the summer he teaches a creative writing class at Central Leaders School, an experience that allows him to see himself in a teaching role.