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November 5, 2015

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Tell me about your background. How did you end up at the YMCA?

KIM: I’m the youth development director for the downtown Detroit Y. I worked at our summer camp – Camp Ohiyesa – and that’s how I got into the Y.  I manage three afterschool sites; I make sure that kids have enough programming to keep them entertained, and engaged. I find the right staff to execute that programming, and I build relationships with the schools and the kids’ parents.

Tell me about what you’re seeing in Detroit. What challenges do you have in these afterschool programs?

KIM: A lot of my students aren’t getting the experience with food that would help them make better choices. The other day, we taught three kids how to make guacamole. None of them had seen an avocado before – they didn’t know what they were. We made guacamole together.

We started a food program last January, and it was sort of a flipped switch. We serve a sandwich, vegetable or fruit, and a whole grain snack, and then we give them a piece of fruit and some juice at 5:30. The food is sorta two fold – giving kids that time to relax and unwind a little bit, but also giving them good food to relax their body, so they can go play kickball. Within a few days there was a noticeable difference in how kids were reacting to just going to play tag. That was one of our biggest wins.

Also, we rarely can go outside, because it’s not in the safest neighborhood. There are legitimate safety concerns about being outside. How do we integrate physical activity for them in a small space?

Why did you want your staff to participate in the CATCH training?

KIM: I wanted them to understand why they were doing this. Staff is no longer allowed to bring fast food, coffee, Cokes, or eat that in front of the kids. It’s a big shift in mindset. We talked about whether this was the right thing to do and what we were role modeling for the kids, and it helps to reinforce that in the CATCH training. We can’t do this overnight, we can’t take care of every kid in America, but we can help the ones in front of us.

We’re providing meals after school but we have parents upset about why their kid can’t eat chips. This helps educate them on what we’re doing and why we’re asking them to do these things. The schools all have concessions at their fundraisers; each group has one a month, and they sell hot dogs, and pop, and candy bars. Trying to provide a healthy space within an unhealthy space is our biggest challenge.

What did you take away from the CATCH training?

KIM: I thought a lot about changing the things we’re already doing to make them more inclusive to every kid. There’s a time for competition, but most of what we do is excluding kids – and the more that I mull that over, it’s not okay. Modifying things to be more inclusive will be really helpful.

What I really liked and will be using – especially during camp – is not to get rid of games that don’t fit that, but how do we change them to fit those standards. We’re keeping what is loved and improving it to make it better.

I also liked the idea that a lot of the CATCH games were not me against other people. I saw a lot of teamwork over the three days and I really loved that.

Kimberly Duchene is a youth development director at the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.