What the South Mountain Y Means to Me
At the South Mountain Y, Beth and Marisa found everything they needed, and more. A facility that had extended hours from 7AM – 7PM, and they used nearly every minute of it! Sometimes, when Beth would show up earlier than 7PM to pick up Marisa, she would ask her to wait while she finished her art project. Other times, NJ Transit failed, and Beth would arrive later than 7PM; while there might be a small surcharge, there was never any attitude, only empathy and love from the Y. Beth loved the fact that the children at South Mountain YMCA came from diverse backgrounds and families. Together, they learned compassion and acceptance. They worked on puzzles and games together and helped each other to hone very practical social skills. “These were the children of our town who would indeed become Marisa’s lifelong friends,” notes Beth. “To this day, if she finds herself in a place where there is another Y kid, she knows someone has her back.” The parents of these children became Beth’s support network. “We were all working parents. We were a team making sure all our kids were taken care of. We carpooled, we fed each other’s kids, we did what needed to be done, without ever needing to ask twice. These parents are people who I know I can count on for support any day I need it, even now.”
When it comes to the staff at the South Mountain Y, Beth says, “The staff was absolutely amazing. They didn’t just care for our children, they loved them deeply.” She recalls a time when Marisa’s best friend had an accident in her pants – the teacher calmly helped her change into clothes from the dress-up box. On her lunch-break, this same teacher walked to the laundromat and cleaned the clothes with her own money, re-dressed the little girl, and never mentioned it to her parents. “I only knew because Marisa mentioned it, and so I asked the teacher myself,” remembers Beth. “This is extraordinary, I obviously have never forgotten it. My daughter never felt like she was missing a parent, because she had six or seven people lovingly parenting her all day.”
Marisa went on to Full-Day Kindergarten at the Y, and also attended Drama Camp. “Oh, the Drama Camp!” fondly remembers Beth. “She learned to memorize her acting and singing lines before she could read, she learned project management, too, as they built their little plays in three weeks from the ground up.” In kindergarten, Marisa learned to journal, to meditate, to set a table, and “educationally, she was more than prepared for first grade.” During her elementary school years, Marisa attended after-care at the Y, and joined the gymnastics program. Mr. Tommy suggested that she do her homework before gymnastics, and she quickly got into the habit of doing her homework immediately upon arrival at the Y. After that, she’d jump into three or four hours of gymnastics. “Marisa kept that discipline right through high school. She never procrastinated, and I NEVER ONCE had to ask if her homework was done!” says Beth.
Marisa is now a successful Science student at McGill University in Montreal. “I could not have raised my daughter on my own without the tremendous support of the Maplewood/South Orange community, and in no small part the South Mountain Y,” notes Beth. Certainly, the Y helped lay the foundation for her great study-habits and organizational skills. The most important benefit for Beth was the knowledge that her child was safe and loved, while she was working in the City. “The collateral benefit that Marisa and I both received were the best kind of friends possible – the ones that are always there to catch us when we fall. The Y created the environment for that kind of love and support to flourish, and for that I am grateful.”