Y gets big boost from SunTrust Foundation

Sandra ClarkOur Town Youth

The SunTrust Foundation has given a $275,000 grant to the YMCA of East Tennessee to expand its youth development programs that focus on financial wellness, academics, leadership and well-being.

Jim Dickson, CEO of the local Y, said the donation will be spread across two years and used in operations to benefit children in all Y branches. “The Y is more than a place to work out; we’re a place of impact in our community.” He said the gift will help “expand much-needed initiatives around health and wellness to the community we serve and also open the door to teach basic financial wellness principles to YMCA youth and teens.”

Harry Gross, market president of SunTrust Bank in Knoxville, represented the foundation at a ceremony July 9 at the West Side Y. “We have a lot of confidence in Jim and his team,” he said.

“While this grant will support many youth development programs, its focus on teaching teens about saving money, budgeting and planning for the future will help bridge the gap from adolescence to adulthood.”

Lori Humphreys, the Y’s vice president of child-care services, said the summer day camps help reverse learning loss during the school vacation, and one in four of this year’s 724 day campers is receiving financial assistance.

She said that nationwide only 51 percent of school-age children demonstrate proficiency in math and reading testing. However, in the most recent standardized tests, 69 percent of at-risk youth in the Y’s after-school child-care programs demonstrated proficiency in math and reading testing. “That’s 18 percent above the nationwide average. And making these Y programs available to low-income families is only possible through financial support.”

Bekah Grace, the Y’s vice president for marketing and manager of the Cansler branch, talked about programs for teens including lifeguard training and Teen Trekkers, a leadership development program through outdoor activities.

According to a press statement, the SunTrust Foundation has provided grants totaling more than $170 million since 2008. Grants focus primarily on financial education and counseling, career readiness and small business/entrepreneurship.

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