Student Newsroom

Champaign YMCA launches new youth outreach program


The van formerly used to transport Y on the Fly staff across Champaign-Urbana sits outside the Stephens Family YMCA. Y on the Fly programming has now expanded to a new, permanent space on Champaign’s east side to accommodate more children. Emily Richie

The Champaign City Council voted unanimously last week to pass a bill granting just over $200,000 to the Stephens Family YMCA.

Two years ago, the group began mobile outreach units called “Y on the Fly” to interact with children across Champaign-Urbana during the summer.

Led by director Capricia Whittaker, a team of YMCA employees traveled to four neighborhoods to ensure that underserved communities could still have access to Y programming, according to its website.

After seeing Y on the Fly’s impact, the Stephens Family YMCA CEO, Jeff Scott, said he knew the move to year-long programming would make even more of a difference.

“We were leaving for nine months while they went to school,” Scott said. “And so we said kids are gonna be changed, but they’re not gonna be changed as much as they could be if they were with Capricia’s team for 12 months of the year.”

Y on the Fly has rented permanent programming space in the former Swann Special Care Center in the east side of Champaign for their new after-school activities, which began Oct. 3.

With the program’s new funding from the City, Y on the Fly is also now connected to a larger initiative in Champaign that targets community violence.

Approved by the City Council in February of this year, the Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint aims to get residents more involved in the community and decrease crime. 

According to the Blueprint, the city council said it hopes the initiative will connect "at-risk" youth to positive opportunities” within the community.

Scott said he hopes to do the same with Y on the Fly.

“We’re looking forward to meeting the needs of 25 to 30 kids on a daily basis in those communities,” Scott said.