Chrinique Christian is manning the front desk of the Petersburg YMCA like she does most nights. In between answering calls and typing on the computer, she happily waves hello and goodbye to each guest. Chrinique is in her first year of college at Virginia State University, but she’s been a staple at the Y for more than a year now.
Chrinique Christian greets a YMCA member at the front desk. Chrinique was offered her job at the Petersburg YMCA
because of her exemplary behavior in the Leaders Club.
“One day I was walking past the billboard, and it said, ‘Leaders Club.’ I thought, ‘I’m a leader maybe I should join Leaders Club.’ I felt like it would be something that would help me and I could help the people I’d be working with. I had skills to give, and other people had skills they could give to me.”
She was right. Chrinique joined the Leaders Club during her senior year at Matoaca High School (where she graduated one of the top in her class), and she quickly became one of the strongest voices in the room. The YMCA administration took notice, eventually offering her the job at the front desk because of her dedication, perseverance, and consistency.
The Leaders Club is put on by the YMCA and coordinated by Teen Director Kennard Curtis. Kennard grew up in Petersburg where he frequented the Y. He says it kept him out of trouble as a kid. He later became a firefighter but wanted to give back to the younger people in his community.
Kennard Curtis speaks to a group of boys in his Junior Leaders Club. During the meeting they talked about how to live well and gain respect.
He even took time to show them how to give a proper handshake.
“There’s not a lot for teenagers to do in Petersburg. The YMCA keeps kids off the streets and out of trouble. It gives them a safe haven, somewhere to be, to fellowship, and develop character. I had a father, but a lot of kids that come through these doors do not have fathers in their lives. I’m the Teen Director at work, but when I’m walking through these halls, I’m a mentor, a bigger brother, and a father figure to some of these kids,” said Kennard.
The Y focuses on developing core character values in young people: caring, honesty, respect, responsibility, and faith. These core values produce people like Chrinique – people dedicated to giving back and encouraging others.
“Being in Leaders Club helped me stay rooted in who I was and where I wanted to go. I had an offer from an out-of-state school, but that doesn’t help Petersburg, Chesterfield, or Hopewell at all. This is the community where I’m from; this is the community that I prefer to affect the most because I know these people. Being in Leaders Club reminded me that I have other reasons to stay here, that staying here isn’t a bad thing,” said Chrinique.
Chrinique is still part of the Leaders Club as a Senior Leader which means she mentors the younger students. Kennard, Chrinique, and other members of the Young Leaders program are part of John Randolph Foundation’s mission to build healthy communities and bright futures. We’ve supported teen programs at the Petersburg YMCA since 2008 because The Y strives to reduce idle time after school and provides teens from low-income backgrounds with the opportunity to reach their full potential. The Y is positioned to provide at-risk teens with experiences to increase their leadership skills, service to the community, and develop tangible workforce skills. They give teens the tools break the cycle of poverty and become the leaders of their community.
Chrinique leans against the doorway into the basketball court at the Y. Even though she had opportunities to pursue her education out of state,
she wanted to make a difference in her community.
“I have always been a kind of mom to everybody. Being a Senior Leader now just means that I have more kids I can affect, and when they volunteer, I have more time to influence them and help them get through whatever they are going through. I can let them know that it might be tough now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Chrinique.Tags: Grantee Spotlight, Grants, Leaders Club, Nonprofit, Petersburg, Petersburg YMCA, Philanthropy, YMCA, YMCA Junior Leaders Club, YMCA Leaders Club
This post was written by Ann Easterling