Many in the community have come to know and love the Northside YMCA as participants often comment on its various programs and its multi-purpose facility that reversed blight and revived a central community. They also laud the outstanding leadership of its Center Director, Shaneé M. Jenkins, our “Second Line” Honoree of 2010.
Now in her fourth year, this March, as a YMCA professional, Ms. Jenkins will celebrate her second year at the 1350 W. North Avenue location in June. She has eagerly gleaned the history of the YMCA that dates back 152 years. She has also enthusiastically listened as seniors recall the excitement of the Booker T. Washington Y, on Walnut Street, in the 1930’s, with Director C.L. Johnson; followed by Director Robert Starms, in 1959, at the North Central YMCA.
Most MCJ readers remember the pledges and committed campaigns for the construction of the “new” Northside YMCA, built in 2002. And hundreds of families, daily, make the Northside Y more than just a facility, it is a home away from home that nurtures the whole person. Consistent with the visible ‘ C ‘ of the Y’s logo and mission, Christian principles are put into practice through programs that build healthy people in spirit, mind and body. These values inspired Shaneé Jenkins to make a career move, some four and a half years ago.
Completing her Criminal Justice Degree at UWM, in 1998, Jenkins was intrigued by the criminal justice system and believed her contribution to making a ‘difference’ would be in the courtrooms. “But God had other plans for me”, she confided, leading to her first position with the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee as a Senior Program Director at the YMCA Holton Youth Center. She said, “working for the YMCA created the perfect opportunity to live my values, utilize my skills and enhance the community. The offer for Director of the Northside YMCA came just two years later”. Shanee demonstrates the YMCA’s creed by building strong kids, strong families and strong communities, in her civic/social/ professional realm, as well.
Visiting the Northside Y is a lesson in ‘unity in the community’ for it bustles with activity from early morning to night. Servicing participants from age 6 weeks to past ninety years could be a diverse interaction challenge. Yet at the Y, old and young are respectful of ethnicity, religious affiliations, political persuasions and socio-economics as they mesh and augment opportunities to live, play and grow with fluidity.
The YMCA’s Young Leadership Academy has 500 students, classes K-8th grade. There is also Early Childhood education beginning at six weeks up to 5 years of age, with nearly 100 young people currently enrolled. The two fitness centers and large gym, plus the 5 foot swimming pool, with water-park feel , makes this Y one of the largest in the city.
“The number of people who learned to swim at Northside YMCA are in the hundreds annually,” Director Jenkins responds. “And, we are one, of only three YMCA Centers, that has childcare. We are servicing hundreds of families, daily. Our membership base boasts nearly 8000 members and that does not include childcare. So bustling is an appropriate description of the Northside Y”.
Community organizations with whom the Y partners meet at the facility regularly, as do older adults in the Silver Sneakers program designed to keep seniors active through exercise, fitness, basic muscular regeneration and fellowship. Paid through Medicare or their insurance companies, cardiovascular, low impact and chair exercises on Tuesdays and Thursdays are often followed by water aerobics on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee’s CEO, Bob Yamachika, had challenged the staff to take the Y to the community and to extend the programs outside of the physical buildings. Additionally, he has stressed the value and importance of building relationships with members. “ That challenge has really supported the true meaning of community,” Jenkins said. “With African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Latinos and Native Americans, there is an international family always present; and ministers, just outside my door, are meeting and strategizing organizational activities, and at the same time counseling some kid about keeping their pants up, or doing well in school. Here the intergenerational gifts are far reaching and ever present”.
Shanee Jenkins says she stands upon the shoulders of those who preceded her. “We begin our day with prayer. So did my parents, as I was growing up. It is so easy to get caught up in the politics of the day unless you are grounded with purpose. In reality, it is not about me, it’s all about what we are called to do. Someone opened doors for this facility to exist, for those who use it, so we must create opportunities for others to seed and be nurtured here. That’s my role in fund-raising and ensuring that membership fees don’t exempt those who desire to use the Y.”
She said, “I made a commitment, long ago, to give my best! Our kids look the same; they act the same. And, when they do not, we have a responsibility to teach, for when they know better, they do better! We want to deliver the highest service to all who enter these doors”.
“I expect from the children the same that my parents expected from me. This Y is an extension of their home. They will be loved and reprimanded because every child is going to be nurtured here. I can tell a parent, and the child, that bad behaviors will lead to their membership being taken away, and, to the person, ninety nine percent of the problems cease. We insist upon a healthy atmosphere. And our staff is just as committed as the C.E.O and myself.”
Shaneé is married to Derick Jenkins and together they are raising two beautiful daughters, Déysha and Sydnee. Her parents remain her ‘First Line’, having recognized her talents and supported her aspirations and dreams. With the same maternal capacity, she brings the firmness of professional expertise, coupled with deep compassion to the children at the Y. And, she enjoys watching the graduates of various programs, with pride and fervor. For the “Third Line” must know the principles of the Y motto: Christian development of the mind, the body and the spirit.
Shaneé Jenkins lives her values daily as she performs day to day operations at the Northside Y; and serves as the principal liaison and relationship builder with the community which includes financial development and member satisfaction.
Shaneé Jenkins is a builder of generations to come. We honor her commitment as a torch- bearer in the 2010 “Second Line”.