I was diagnosed with Autism just before I turned three, so my mom enrolled me in full-time YMCA Child Care at St. Bernadette for extra support. That’s when my journey to realizing my dream began.

My social skills were an issue, but the teachers modified the program so I could learn, just like the other kids. And as I moved on to YMCA Before and After School care, the teachers always took my needs into consideration, modifying the program and my environment when needed. I never once felt that I was different. I always felt like I belonged.

My experience in child care, combined with teachers who were always committed to my success, made me want to be a teacher too. I saw that to be a good teacher, you need to be understanding and always accept others. That’s something I’ve learned from the Y.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in various Y programs and through each one, I have grown in leaps and bounds. Each step has helped build my confidence.

Last summer, I took the Leaders in Training program at camp and I loved having the chance to volunteer and help other kids. Which is why I picked the YMCA as my project to write about during an Edu-Travel program I also took last summer. I didn’t even hesitate because I’ve seen how the Y impacts people in our community every day.

The YMCA embraces everyone, no matter their differences, giving people like me the opportunity to see they can do more. If I had not been involved with the Y, I would not have had the chance to grow, to have amazing experiences, to make friends and to realize my dream of becoming a teacher.

The Y has made me want to give back to others. I hope that I can go on to impact others, just as the Y has impacted me.

– Gabriela

Did you know?

Our national YMCA Playing to Learn and YMCA Place to Connect curriculums enhance all areas of a child’s development, including physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being. Our child care programs and spaces are designed to ensure all children feel included and have a place to belong. Through consultation and partnership with Halton Region and ROCK, we are able to successfully support children with special needs in our programs.

The YMCA is committed to treating all children with dignity and respect, helping them to grow and develop in a supportive environment. This allows children to take risks, challenge themselves, develop their skills and have a place to truly belong.