YMCA Learning Institute: Raising the bar for practitioners to strengthen impact


"This beautiful new center represents new opportunities for our local community and the kids and families we serve."
–Peter B. McNitt, vice chair of BMO Harris Bank and chairman of the Y’s Board of Managers

When plans began to take shape for the new YMCA Center, a part of the vision was a conference space that could nurture sustained, research-based collaborative learning supporting the Y’s four mission anchors: academic readiness, character development, violence prevention, and fitness and healthy living. From this vision, the YMCA Learning Institute was born. Finding the right partner for the journey was a crucial piece of the puzzle. Thanks to lead funding from BMO Harris Bank, the Y was able to create a space that reflects the vision and goals shared by both organizations.

"We are investing in the Learning Institute because we embrace its mission to drive transformative change by developing holistic and evidence-based approaches to breaking the cycle of poverty and creating economic opportunities for all," said Peter B. McNitt, Vice Chair of BMO Harris Bank.

Located on the 7th floor of the YMCA Center overlooking stunning views of the Chicago skyline, the Learning Institute is the first of its kind in the region. This 8,000-square-foot collaborative learning space will set new standards for social services training and program innovation by serving as a central hub for youth development practitioners, management staff, funders and community members to come together to translate research into practice.

As a convener and collaborative leader in the nonprofit sector, the Y has made the space available to other nonprofits, partners and organizations to use for meetings and special events.

Like the other program spaces in the YMCA Center, "The YMCA Learning Institute is an inclusive community space for practitioners, researchers, partners and funders," said Christina Krasov, vice president of Learning and Evaluation, YMCA of Metro Chicago. "Together, we can create interdisciplinary pathways for our youth that acknowledge the realities they face today and what the future expects of them. At the heart of this vision is the recognition that no single individual or agency can do this alone."

The YMCA's Teen Council discussing community initiatives in the new Learning Institute.