A “no” vote on Proposition 401 and the Payson YMCA is akin to turning your back on our town’s young people.
You see, many of them desperately need the resources a YMCA can offer.
After 37 years in a public school classroom, more than 20 of those in Payson, I know all too well that some children and teens in our town simply do not have the support and assets they need to grow into healthy, successful and caring adults.
Some young people come from broken homes, with little nurturing or guidance.
Often children live in homes where working parents’ hectic schedules send tempers flaring and tears falling.
Some children struggle academically and others don’t receive the encouragement they need to become responsible leaders and citizens.
I’ve seen some fail because they lack motivation or expectations of achievement and others struggle with boredom, fear, humiliation and confusion.
Sure, some of those problems exist in our school buildings, but even more can be found in our homes and our neighborhoods.
The truth is, that if a child lives in an unsupportive home and a chaotic community, the odds are he or she will fail.
That’s where the nonprofit YMCA enters the picture.
As a teacher and coach in Tempe and Phoenix years ago, I personally witnessed many occasions when the YMCA stepped in with the programs and assets needed to help young people grow to become happy, healthy and successful adults.
Almost always it was because an offering and an instructor suited the child’s interest and talents. That obviously increased the likelihood that the child would feel a sense of accomplishment.
Now, picture this.
One afternoon, a mother sits in the new Payson YMCA aquatic center watching her 8-year-old daughter take swimming lessons. Nearby, her 12-year-old son is working out in youth fitness classes and learning to use the equipment so he can soon enjoy weight-training sessions with his mother.
In another part of the building, a young girl takes after-school yoga classes and several grade-school students attend nutrition training.
In the technology lab, two teenagers practice their keyboarding skills and in another part of the building the YMCA Adventure Guide program is just starting up.
Several families have enrolled because they know the program will strengthen understanding between parents and children.
At the front desk, several teens are signing up for leadership programs like Hi-Y, Model United Nations and the Earth Service Corps.
Just around the corner, two elementary school students struggling with math are doing homework and receiving tutoring.
And finally, a single mother is picking up her two toddlers from the YMCA’s child care program.
The mother has worked all day without a worry knowing the YMCA provides high quality, affordable child care with values-based programs.
About 10 years ago, Dennis Pirch — then a Payson High School teacher and wrestling coach — and I were having a conversation about the two years PHS spent in the 3A Central Region. The Arizona Interscholastic Association had realigned the conference and sent PHS from the East Region to the new Central.
As we talked, we agreed life in the Central had been quite different than it was in the East with Snowflake, Show Low, Blue Ridge and Round Valley.
Although we couldn’t put our finger on the exact differences, Dennis came up with what he called “East Mystique.”
His theory, and I wholeheartedly agreed, is that the rural, small-town schools in the White Mountains and the Rim Country seem to support and provide for their young people better than some of the schools in the Central.
Along with that support, came higher expectations for the young people.
And East schools seem to have a tight-knit camaraderie that didn’t exist in the Central.
After sorting through what we believed were the differences in the two region’s schools, we came up with a list of examples.
We mentioned the new Ensphere dome in Eagar, the financial and parental support shown Little League and other sports teams, the increasing emphasis on learning new technology, contributions of civic organizations to band, music and drama, a higher rate of volunteerism, pride in home, school and community and different value systems being instilled in the young people.
Payson has built a reputation around the state as a town that genuinely nurtures and cares for its young people. It would be a shame to destroy that well-earned reputation with a no vote on the YMCA