YMCA to Launch Middle School Program

The YMCA of Rock River Valley will soon begin serving middle school students in West Rockford through a partnership. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, located at 1829 North Rockton Avenue across from West Middle School, opened its doors to the Y. The Y will operate Y Middle School Achievers, a national YMCA program that serves students from varying academic levels in pursuit of educational and career goals. 

“We have long felt called to serve youth in West Rockford,” said Brent Pentenburg, CEO, YMCA of Rock River Valley. “This new site wouldn’t be possible without our partners – Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and United Way of Rock River Valley. We know youth are an expression of their environment and their experiences, which is why we wanted to create a space and a program to be that positive force in their lives.”

Y Middle School Achievers will be open to all middle school students but will be targeted to West Middle School. This school was targeted because academic proficiency is an issue with 14% of students being proficient in English and 4% of students proficient in math. Further, according to the Erikson Institute data, the children in this immediate neighborhood show significant vulnerabilities in all of the developmental domains -- indicating a high need for services in the immediate area.

“We are excited to join our friends from the YMCA, the United Way, the Library, and others in this community partnership, to help the youth and families of our neighborhood,” Pastor Eric Lemonholm, Lutheran Church of the Good Shephard.

Additionally, the site will be further enhanced with a donation from Rockford Public Library. The Library announced it will donate books and shelves to the Church for the youth to use.

“RPL is thrilled to contribute to kids on Rockford’s West side through Y Middle School Achievers,” stated Rockford Public Library Executive Director Lynn Stainbrook. “It remains our priority to seek out opportunities to support good community partners in providing safe environments for youth in Rockford to gather and learn.”

Y Middle School Achievers helps teens improve academic performance, develop a positive sense of self, build character, explore diverse college and career options, plus interact with professionals who serve as role models.

“We are concerned there is significant truancy in this remote-learning year, creating a situation in which students become disengaged from school. This puts our youth at an even higher risk for dropping out of school. We know from experience that the Achievers program works for high school students. We wanted to test the program with younger students to intervene earlier with the goal of reducing school dropout rates community wide.”

In 2017, According to the 2016-2017 Illinois Report Card, only 51.8% of students in RPS attended college within 12 months of graduating. In that same year, 96% of seniors who participated in the Y’s Achievers program graduated and went on to attend college. 

Once we are able to connect again in-person, the program will operate daily during remote learning times and after school at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. The Y will have a capacity to serve up to 50 or more students.