“What I Really Do…” Meet Y Team Member Jesse F.- Week 3

jesse flaherty

YMCA staff members impact the lives of members, fellow staff and those in our community each and every day. They do have job titles, but are so much more! The Indian Valley Family YMCA Staff team will be sharing “What I Really Do” in a weekly series.
Week 2: Jesse F

Personal Trainer. Ready to Be Fit Coach. LiveSTRONG trainer, TRX Instructor, Wellness Attendant.

A source of guidance
Every day that I work I am given a chance to help someone. As simple as that may seem, I have never felt so relevant in both my life and in the lives of others. That’s a pretty cool feeling! 
Jesse is a dedicated and hardworking member of our Wellness team in Ellington!!

Empowering Youth

So towards the end of the day today, all of the kids were leaving.  Kayla’s mom approaches me and and asked Kayla if she had told me the great news.  I was so confused.  Kayla told me that she auditioned for the play Alice In Wonderland and was cast as the lead role as Alice! This was such a huge deal!  Kayla’s mom pulled me aside all teary eyed and said “Mark and I owe this all to you Alisha.  If you hadn’t given Kayla the confidence to sing with you in front of everyone during the holiday show, she never would have felt confident enough that she could do it.  You truly helped her take that next step and fulfill her dream.  I can’t thank you enough.  You truly are an amazing individual.”  I literally had tears running down my face.  Little does she know, I never would have sang in front of all those people had she not asked me.  I was terrified, but I am totally invested in these kids and it’s these little moments that make it worth everything!


The Real Winners…

The day had just started and I needed to get everyone to sit quietly so I could do attendance so I said we were playing the “let’s see who can sit the quietest without moving” game. If they won I told them they could pick a prize from the prize box. One kid in particular, Nate, didn’t talk or move at all so he picked this huge plastic medal that said the word “winner” across it. He of course flaunted it around because he was so excited he had won the “game.” A good 45 mins passed by and we transitioned to a new game. Out of nowhere, Nate came up to me and was like “Ms. Alisha, I don’t think I am a real winner.” Concerned and a little heart broken I asked why he thought that and he replied “I honestly think that you are the real winner Ms. Alisha. I have so much fun when you teach me and I always learn so much. So thank you!” Tears in my eyes, I hugged him and told him he was also a true winner and an amazing person.

Having your day made, because you made someone else’s day.

Winter I is the first time here at Wheeler we are running Sports of All Sorts with kids ages 3-6. I’m going to be honest, I was really skeptical at first because for it only being a three year age difference, the skill level is very different. One of the objectives of this class is to also introduce the kids to different sports that aren’t your everyday soccer and basketball. So, of course the first week I started with everyone’s favorite soccer. I know, somewhat lame considering the objective of the class but it really helped let the kids get to know each other and for me to get to know their skill levels. Let me tell you, for 3-6 year olds, these are some pretty advanced and athletic kids.

This week I took them rock climbing. Now, kids either are terrified to climb to the top of the wall, or they climb up without any problem and refuse to climb down. One child in my class has attempted the rock wall before with his parents and the first issue (being terrified to climb up) was what he dealt with. But this time around, Bryson climbed to the top of the wall without any problems whatsoever. His mother was so impressed and this morning after I worked out, she made sure to tell me that not only was she overjoyed that I was the one instructing the class, but that Bryson made sure to tell everyone that he climbed the wall and he hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Now classes are on Wednesday at 530 and when his mom stopped me it was today, which is Friday.

That is the part of the story where Bryson and his mom’s day was made, my day was made because not only did a little boy get over a fear, he made sure he told everyone, he even waited until his dad got home from work that night to tell him!

Something I pride myself in with my classes is making sure that everyone has an extremely positive experience, even if they aren’t the superstar, I still want them to walk away having a great time and even learning something along the way. For Bryson, it was learning that he can climb our 25 foot climbing wall and that it isn’t as scary as he thought (even if we do have a dragon that lives on the other side of the wall). And for his mom it was the pride in seeing her son accomplish something he was scared of.

As tedious as it can be somedays keeping up with the kids in classes and staying on your toes week after week, it’s these little moments that help keep me working hard and working intentionally to make sure every kids that comes through our programs here, has an equally positive experience.

The Y-TIP Program participates in a Domestic Violence workshop

The Y-TIP Program participated in a Domestic Violence workshop hosted by David Rivera of the Interval House.  It is important to educate our youth on healthy relationships are an early age.  This gives them a better understanding of what to expect when dealing with relationships.  They have gained information on the red flags in relationships and how to address the many issues that people face regularly.  They may now have an opportunity to help someone in need.  They are more aware and more enlightened!!! Domestic Violence is a growing concern and we would like to provide our families with access to information that could be of assistance.

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LiveStrong Graduates at the Downtown Y!!

This week the Downtown Y was proud to graduate it’s members of their LiveStrong program. As always, this was an exciting and emotional event.  Here is a copy of the speech that Leslie Amant, our LiveStrong coordinator, gave at the graduation….


You made it!

The program may have ended but your journey to a healthier lifestyle has just begun. I feel like a proud mama who gave birth to all of you(w/o as much pain of course;)

To say that we at the Downtown Y are proud of you is an understatement. We are that and then some.

To say you are an inspiration is an understatement. You do that and then some.

You are survivors, athletes, role models, wives, sisters, siblings, parents, friends and …then some.

I’d like to take a minute to thank the LiveStrong Foundation. It proves that Lance started an amazing and impressive foundation and that it is not the voice of one man that resonates but rather it is the voice of millions of survivors, like you, that is heard the loudest.  And I hope that holds true going forward for you and those in succeeding programs.

What we learned as time passed was that we were not the only trainers and coaches here. You all motivated each other and provided guidance. The 15 minute sharing time at the end of each night was just as important as the strength, endurance and balance training you received.

The collaborative effort was amazing to witness and we believe it helped many of you reach new goals, new levels of fitness but also we hope that it helped you become stronger through life’s struggles, helped alleviate some of the latent side effects and that it helped put you in a better frame of mind.

This class made you devote time to you and no one else…sans the guilt.

Cancer doesn’t define you its just something you have like brown eyes, or a small nose; but what you can now add to your list of attributes is more muscle, improved balance(some of you;) and a happier more satisfied you.

LiveStrong is a better program because of your participation. My world, Kristi’s world, Jason’s world and Wes’s world is a better place for knowing you.

Thank you for being you and surviving.

~Yours in health,

Leslie St. Amant



Passion for the Y

Since working for the YMCA, I have noticed a pattern among those who work here. In today’s society, success is often determined by your income, the clothes you wear, what kind of car you drive, etc. While having nice things is great, what does it matter if deep down you’re not happy or fulfilled? At the risk of sounding cliche, I truly believe that a person’s success lies in their happiness, passion and motivation for their life and work, things that every YMCA employee I’ve met so far possess. I can feel the passion with every blog post I read, speech I hear or Y staff member I encounter. It’s amazing to be a part of such a caring group of people.

Erin-Allyn Lopez is one of the individuals I’ve met whose dedication to the Y and the children she watches over is remarkable. As a counselor at the Tri-Town Branch, Erin goes above and beyond to make sure the children in her programs have a great experience. Whether she’s spending her free time coming up with new activities and games for the children or teaching them valuable life lessons, Erin has all of the traits that the Y looks for in employees. We are so happy to have her on our team and appreciate all that she does!
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Moms & More Open House

Last week, the West Hartford YMCA Program Director, Will Noha and I attended the Moms & More Open House at St. Brigid Elementary School.  Moms & More is a West Hartford-based parent organization designed to meet the needs of working and stay-at-home parents. They have event information, night activities,meetings and daily events and they are an integral part of the community. Many of the parents who attended this event were new to town and looking for a way to become more involved in the community. I spoke to one mother who had just moved to West Hartford from Ireland for her husband’s job and didn’t know a soul. She has two young children and couldn’t express how thankful she was to have found Moms & More and the YMCA. She confessed to me that the move has been very hard on her children, so I began to tell her about the YMCA and all that we stand for.  She was thrilled to hear about all of the different things that we offer and wants to enroll her children in one of our programs as soon as possible so that they can start making friends and feeling comfortable in their new town.

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I was expecting to just play games with the children at this event to keep them entertained, but it ended up being an extremely rewarding experience. As I talked to different parents I began to realize how important organizations like the YMCA and Moms & More are to them. While the programs that we offer definitely help to improve children’s athletic skills, more importantly they can help children and families to feel like they belong as they connect and meet others in the community. It felt great to help individuals who are new to town feel at ease and we look forward to collaborating with Moms & More again!

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“What I Really Do”… Meet Desiree. Week 2

desiree m photo with kidsYMCA staff members impact the lives of members, fellow staff and those in our community each and every day. They do have job titles, but are so much more! The Indian Valley Family YMCA Staff team will be sharing “What I Really Do” in a weekly series.
Week 2: Desiree M.
Head Teacher-Nursery School and Assistant Teacher Open Arms
An educator, a caregiver, a listener, a motivator
Care about education, our families, community and want to help foster healthy relationships
Desiree is a dedicated and hardworking member of our Vernon Child Care team!!

My awesome view

Nobody thinks I’m listening…but I am!  This is the view from my desk on any given day here at the Indian Valley Family YMCA.  I look out on the Wellness Center and guess what, I eavesdrop.  This day, I was so inspired by the conversation I was listening to, I had to take a picture.  That’s Marla on the right, a Membership Services Representative who helped the Wellness Department kick start our first “Staff Wellness Challenge”.  She was at the Wellness desk, encouraging a member to stick to her plan and reach her goals.  Marla’s concern for our members does not stop at the Welcome Center, she is ALL IN and we love it!  Thanks Marla, for being a Wellness Ambassador EXTORDINARE…we can’t do it without you!talking about wellness