Christian describes the day he met outreach worker Devon Timms as one that changed, and saved, his life.
At the age of 7, Christian lost three very important people in his life: his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. The tragedy left the young boy depressed and angry. His grades suffered, he misbehaved and he became more interested in hanging out with drug dealers and gang members than with other children from his school.
Two years later, Devon saw Christian outside the Kelly Hall YMCA and invited him inside. "At first, I didn’t want to go because I was dirty and bummy. I didn’t have a lot of nice things like the other kids," Christian says. "Finally, I went there and that was the best decision I ever made. The kids and staff welcomed me right in."
Thanks to the Teen REACH out-of-school-time prevention program, Christian joined the Y’s basketball team and developed leadership skills through the guidance of his coaches. He also enjoyed many first-time experiences outside of his neighborhood, such as canoeing, hiking, archery and camping.
The Teen REACH program provided him, and other underserved youth from low-income families, with tutoring, mentoring, college preparation and enriching activities in a safe environment with positive role models.
Now a high school sophomore, Christian is on the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Teen Leadership Council and dreams of playing basketball in college.
"The YMCA is not just a Y, it’s my family. I never thought about college or even wanted to go before the Y." He adds, "I would not be the person I am today if it had not been for the great people there who help me every day."
The Teen REACH program was offered at the Kelly Hall YMCA, McCormick Tribune YMCA and Rauner Family YMCA. Due to state budget cuts, the program ended in fall 2015.