YMCA ALLIANCE REMINDS LAWMAKERS OF THEIR ROLE IN CHILD PROTECTION
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 15, 2018....Support for water safety, youth government programs, diabetes prevention, and early education are among the wide-ranging list of asks that YMCA staff and advocates made of lawmakers Thursday.
All the programs and policies the Y's back serve the universal goal of child protection, Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs Board Chair Paul Gorman said at a State House lobby day.
Participants urged legislators to support an array of bills and budget items, including $1.8 million in funding that goes directly to the state's 30 YMCAs for initiatives that serve at-risk youth, a $20 million rate reserve for educators, and $6.5 million to help early education and out-of-school programs.
"You do whatever it takes, and that's the point," Sen. Jason Lewis told the crowd, saying there's "nothing I love more than our Y's."
The $1.8 million in at-risk youth money, a sum the alliance said would represent a $500,000 increase over this year, supports the Y's safety around water initiative as well as teen employment, summer literacy programs, scholarships and financial aid for low-income families.
Kate-Marie Roycroft, the alliance's director of public policy, said drowning is the second leading cause of death in children age 4 and younger and YMCAs are especially equipped to help reduce drowning risks.
Y's provide swimming lessons -- including some specifically for children with autism, who are 160 times more likely to die from drowning than the general pediatric population, according to the alliance -- train and hire at-risk teens as lifeguards, and partner with schools on water safety curriculum, Roycroft said.
Legislation backed by the YMCAs includes a Rep. Bruce Ayers bill (H 1469) that would allow people to donate a portion of their state tax return to the YMCA's Youth in Government program and a Rep. Daniel Cullinane bill dealing with diabetes prevention (H 1362).
Roycroft said getting the Youth in Government tax check-off box bill through the House Ways and Means Committee is a "major goal" of the alliance.
Christopher Cantwell, who was elected "youth governor" through the program, said the one complaint he has heard about Youth in Government is that the opportunity is not available to more students.
Cantwell, a Marshfield High School student and the son of Rep. Jim Cantwell, said each generation must learn the principles of democracy, and the youth program is one way to do that, along with teaching skills like public speaking and the importance of being open-minded.
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