For a young immigrant, the Y was more than a place to play basketball. It was a safe haven from life on the streets.
Born in Panama, Joshua moved to the United States with his mother when he was eight. After a year in New York, they moved to Columbus, Ga. With little money and no support system, the transition to life in the U.S. was difficult for them, particularly Joshua.
“I couldn’t understand English well, so I started doing bad things to impress the kids in the neighborhood,” he said. “I was constantly getting into trouble at home, in school and with the law.”
One day, Joshua was hanging out a park with “friends who were older and always getting into trouble.” A coach from the nearby A.J. McClung YMCA approached Joshua and invited him to play basketball at the Y. He accepted the coach’s invitation—“the best decision I have made for my family and me.”
Joshua started spending more time at the Y and less time on the streets. His grades and behavior improved, thanks to the mentoring and academic assistance he received. He developed a love and talent for basketball. He made his high school’s varsity basketball team, which won the state championship. He graduated from high school.
Now a college student, Joshua volunteers at the Y regularly.
“My YMCA was my safe haven and is for all kids in the community. It gives hope and inspiration for troubled kids,” he said. “If it were not for my YMCA, I would probably be in jail or dead. Those YMCA coaches and staff literally saved me.”