When speaking with Mina Ford, Executive Director with YMCA of Central Florida Teen Achievers, her passion is contagious. This is more than a job to her and YMCA Achievers is more than just a program; this is Mina’s calling.
“When my son was in 7th grade, I was looking for a program for him to help him grow,” she said. “We found the YMCA Achievers. First I was involved with them as a parent, then when I saw their great work, I became a volunteer eventually became a member of the part-time staff.”
After spending time as a PT staff and seeing her son off to college and then graduate school, YMCA Achievers became Mina’s passion and she became a full-time employee.
Mina’s dedication is easy to understand due to the great work the United Way-funded YMCA Achievers program accomplishes. Focused on college and career readiness, the program helps students look beyond middle school and high school and encourages them to think of their future.
The Corporate partnerships provide volunteers to facilitate career and college sessions working together as group mentors. Achievers provides exposure and introduces students to different careers and educational paths.
The program prepares students for the transition to college life. For many, they have never spent time away from home before. The Achievers program organizes college tours, visit the dorms and eat at the cafeteria to get a real taste of college life.
To help students think about their fields of study, the Achievers invites industry leaders and experts to talk with the students.
“We will bring in nurses or healthcare professionals to speak to those interested in a medical career for example,” said Mina. “By bringing in active professionals, it gives them snapshots of what those jobs are like and what kind of skills and education they will need.”
Once they have a goal in mind, students are coached in career readiness. Serving Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, volunteers in the program help prepare resumes and teach how to handle professional correspondence, helping students prepare to have real jobs.
Since its inception 25 years ago, the YMCA Achievers program has served over 11,000 students, including 150 funded by United Way this past year. The Achievers program gives students a real opportunity at improving their future and paving the way for success, key tenants of United Way’s philosophy.
For more information about YMCA Achievers or how to volunteer, visit the YMCA website.