From Shy to Spunky: Meet Julian

Monday, May 25, 2015

Picture this: a shy child comes to a YMCA After School program for the first time. He’s surrounded by energetic counselors and his peers who are ready to play and learn together. Instead of joining in, he steps to the side and keeps to himself.

This is Julian. Like so many kids in our community, Julian was shy and struggled in social situations and in the classroom. He started coming to the River Dell Elementary YMCA After School program in early 2014 where he met a new friend, Youth Director Andrew Mickens.

“I could tell he was very shy and after speaking with his mother about it, I tried to take him under my wing and break him out of his shell a bit,” Mickens said.

To help with his schoolwork, Mickens worked with Julian’s mother to get him enrolled in Y Learning at River Dell, which quickly yielded great results. Y Learning is a standardized tutorial program, for students in grades K-8 who struggle to meet school system benchmarks.

“His grades went from failing to Bs and high Cs within a matter of months. His confidence skyrocketed and my staff and I really saw him grow quickly.”

Once his grades improved, Julian expressed an interest in sports and started playing soccer for the Y. Mickens said he was quickly scoring multiple goals a game and building great relationships with his teammates. He also spent most of his summer last year at YMCA summer camp, and plans to do the same this year.

“He’s grown into great friendships and has really bloomed into an outgoing, excited kid,” Mickens said. “He had a birthday recently and the party was full of friends he’d made at the Y. He’s truly found a home within our YMCA programs.”

Julian says he now wants to play sports in college – specifically basketball at Duke University. He says he plans to work hard on his grades, as well as his skills, to make that dream a reality.

Because of Y Learning, After School and other YMCA programs, Julian’s grades improved, and he also gained a new sense of self-confidence. And, because of contributions to our Annual Campaign, we can continue sharing stories just like Julian’s.