The Avondale Meadows YMCA opened its doors 7 years ago. Two of the visitors that day were Willie Gupton and his son, Welles. No one knew at the time the way the YMCA or the Y Achievers Program would play such an important role in Welles’s life.
An Introduction to Y Achievers Program
Following the opening, Willie would bring Welles into the Y while he worked out. Welles would play basketball, workout on the treadmill or just wander in the center. It wasn’t until Welles came to know Mr. Chris that he really got involved. Chris Tolliver referred Welles to the Y Achievers program. The Y Achievers Program assists youth and teens with tools that lead to higher education. Participants have the opportunity to learn about career planning, college options (post-secondary education), vocational training programs, the college enrollment process, and financial aid and scholarships.
Welles was 12 years old when he attended his first event. He remembers that the group made slime and played a basketball math game. His father remembers the mentoring and career exploration. Either way, Welles liked the mentors and the counselors that made for a “kinda cool” first day.
Learning Life Skills in Y Achievers Program
Y Achievers lead Welles to learn life skills and explore different careers.
“Children get to a point where the parent’s advice only goes so far. They need mentors and other adult influences to push them further and make them grow as individuals,” said Willie. Willie Gupton is the Dean of Behavior for IPS and understands the needs of a well-rounded child. For him, the YMCA provided that.
“Mr. Chris kept bothering me about getting involved in Youth & Government. I thought it was just people talking all day and I wasn’t interested. Then I saw some pictures and thought maybe it might be fun, so I went,” Welles recalls.
Welles got all dressed up and headed to Youth & Government. He began as a legislator where he created a bill with a friend.
“It was silly and it didn’t pass. When I went back for my second year, I realized that my bill needed to apply to a problem and it needed to be more serious. We created one and it passes. It felt great,” said Welles.
Youth & Government has given Welles a more positive outlook on government. This year, Welles would like to take it to the next level and apply for a position in the office.
Becoming a Future Leader with Y Achievers Program
Welles has grown up in many ways over the years. He was going through a tough time with his grades and was frustrated. Through working with Y staff who help students with their career readiness in Future Leaders, he saw the importance of his grades.
“I really liked the College Tour. It helped me see what my interests would look like in the future,” said Welles.
The College Tour visited Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, Wilberforce University, and Central State University. Welles, who wants to create video games, got to experience a class in that field and even played a video game a student had created. This glimpse into what his future could hold, helped Welles to get more serious about his grades.
The Y Family
“Throughout my time here, I have gotten to meet a lot of people. If I had a problem, I could ask them – like my family. It’s like my second home,” stated Welles.
Another member of Welles’ “Y Family,” Gary Brown, Avondale Meadows Sports and Wellness Director, has witnessed Welles growing up in the Y, “When I first met Welles he would wander from area to area in the center with no direction. I have had the pleasure of [personal] training Welles and to see how his focus and dedication has changed over the years is wonderful. I am overjoyed that the Avondale Meadows YMCA is part of his community.”
Welles, currently a freshman at Tindley High School, is ready to get back into the swing of things at the Y. The Teen Center is open, but Y Achiever programs have yet to resume. The staff and donors want to see this program resume to offer that assistance to children and their parents. With the many life skills and guidance it provides, it is definitely missed and will return in a later phase of the YMCA's reopening.
A Parent's Dream
Willie Gupton has been a great advocate for the Y Achievers Program, “As a parent, it feels great to have a safe place where my child can grow and be around other positive role models. I am very appreciative.”
To find out more about the Y Achievers program and events happening around the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, visit our website. Also, if you would like to show your support of the program, you may make a donation online or at any YMCA of Greater Indianapolis location.