By Tony Kayumi, President & CEO of the Ann Arbor YMCA
Note: This is the first installment of a blog series authored by leaders from the ten YMCAs participating in the Biden Foundation and YMCA of the USA’s LGBTQ Inclusion and Equity Initiative. Learn more about the initiative and get additional updates here.
As the CEO of the Ann Arbor YMCA, I am so proud that our association was one of ten Ys in the country chosen by YMCA of the USA and the Biden Foundation to participate in the LGBTQ Inclusion and Equity Initiative. The pilot program is designed to strengthen organizational capacity to address the needs of LGBTQ youth, adults, and families, and build bridges across communities.
In August, the Ann Arbor Y sponsored Ann Arbor Pride 2018 and had an exhibitors table, where we handed out information about Y membership, programs, and employment opportunities. We also gave away approximately 375 Y PRIDE bracelets. Our staff team interacted with hundreds of members of the LGBTQ community in the span of 10hours, many of whom expressed being pleasantly surprised to see the Y at PRIDE and especially that we were actively recruiting individuals from the LGBTQ community to come work for us.
We sometimes have difficulty filling additional weekend shifts for extra events outside of our staff’s usual duties, because we all work so hard throughout the week. However, when I sent out an email asking our team to sign up for PRIDE, more employees volunteered than we had shifts for! LGBTQ staff and allied staff all wanted to show their support for this diversity and inclusion effort, and a number of team members who weren’t officially signed up to work came just to hang out with those of us who were.
Participating in Pride was our Y’s first event to intentionally engage Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ community. Internally, it’s already had a positive impact on our LGBTQ staff. Here are some quotes that I’ve received from members of our team:
“As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, it helps me feel a lot more welcome as a staff member to know that the Y is actively trying to find ways to include the community I belong to.”
“Here at the Ann Arbor Y I feel accepted, welcomed and valued regardless of my sexual orientation.”
“I honestly feel valued as a staff member at the Y and being a member of the LGBTQ+ community has never made me feel uncomfortable or pull back from being myself.”
“I feel honored and excited to work with the Ann Arbor Y and on future LGBTQ projects.”
“Actions like altering the mission statement, having a diversity and inclusion statement posted on the web, including pronouns in email signatures and having a table at PRIDE prove that the Ann Arbor Y is heading in the right direction.”
If your Y hasn’t participated in a Pride event yet, I would encourage you to do so! For the Ann Arbor Y, not only was it a success in our community, it was also a team builder and morale booster for our staff family.
Toni Kayumi is President & CEO of the Ann Arbor YMCA, one of ten Ys participating in the Biden Foundation and YMCA of the USA’s LGBTQ Inclusion and Equity Initiative. Founded in 1858, the Ann Arbor Y consists of 34 program sites in southeast Michigan and serves over 18,500 families each year.