Outreach Program Targets Greater Holyoke YMCA Students

Led by Lea Herrick, assistant director of admissions, youngsters from the Greater Holyoke YMCA tour listen as Michael Formosi, manager of Durfee Conservatory, points out a banana during a tour of the facility.
Led by Lea Herrick, assistant director of admissions, youngsters from the Greater Holyoke YMCA tour listen as Michael Formosi, manager of Durfee Conservatory, points out a banana during a tour of the facility.

Nearly 90 elementary-age students from the Greater Holyoke YMCA took part in a campus scavenger hunt on July 28 as part of university outreach efforts to get young students, especially those from underrepresented populations, to begin thinking about college.

The students were from the Power Scholars Academy, a six-week summer program at the YMCA.

“I was hoping for the students to have fun here and to make a memory — a good, positive memory of UMass — so that when they get older and someone mentions the university to them, they think a happy thought,” says Leykia Nulan, assistant provost for diversity. “Hopefully that happy thought will compel them to think of us and want to come back to us in the future.”

The event was organized by the YMCA and the Office of Enrollment Management, in collaboration with many offices across campus, and brought students to notable locations such as the Du Bois Library, Recreation Center, Fine Arts Center and Durfee Conservatory.

Although the visiting students were young, “making this investment now is something that may later contribute to making this campus more inclusive and diverse,” says Nulan.

Phoebe Hobbs, school age enrichment coordinator for the YMCA, agreed, saying, “A college education is the gateway to opportunity in life, and the sooner children understand this, the more willing they will be to put in the hard work required to achieve their goals.”

She adds, “Instilling a love of learning and an interest in education at a young age can work wonders in increasing a child's motivation and providing them with a direction for their lives.”

During the event, students were able to put some of the teamwork, leadership, and socialization skills they’ve been developing at the YMCA into practice as they worked in teams and learned about the campus.

“Above all, it is important to make it known that a college education is accessible to all students,” Hobbs says.

The Power Scholars Academy is a partnership between the Greater Holyoke YMCA, a national nonprofit organization Building Educated Leaders for Life, and Holyoke Public Schools. The program strives to combat summer learning loss through academic instruction in math, reading, art, dance, STEM and nutrition, as well as foster physical and social growth