National News

YMCA leadership announces new youth development program

Posted July 12

— Albany Area YMCA President Dan Gillan announced this week the formation of the new Youth Development Department at the Albany Area Y.

Gillan used the terms "innovation, education, and accountability" to describe the Y's new approach to youth programming.

"We are forging an entirely new path in our organization," Gillan said. "Our vision is to build a bridge between Childcare and Aquatics, two programs built on the foundation of safety, education and trust. These programs have historically worked very closely.

"We are going to integrate them further, blending the safety expertise of our Aquatics department with the educational and developmental knowledge of our Childcare department, bringing in new people, new training and new ideas to forge an innovative new direction for our organization. This is truly unprecedented, what we are doing, but it is this radical change in approach accompanied by deliberate selection of leadership that will affect the dramatic change we are seeking."

Leading the new department will be Youth Development Director Teresa Manning, a certified Georgia Public Educator with a degree in Social Science and a concentration in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University. Manning has 10 years of experience teaching in Lee County and Baconton Community Charter Schools, which includes three years of experience working specifically with children with special needs.

In addition to her background in education, Manning has spent the past year leading the Aquatics department at the Albany YMCA. A Certified Pool Operator, a licensed trainer in Lifeguarding, CPR/AED, and First Aid, a certified Swim Lesson Instructor/Trainer, and a certificate holder in administering Emergency Oxygen, Manning possesses a wealth of knowledge in aquatics and safety. Through positions of leadership in community groups, churches, and work, Manning has led numerous camps, providing care and supervision for hundreds of children throughout the years.

Gillan said he is confident that Manning's unique blend of experience and qualifications is exactly what the Y needs to progress.

"Teresa is a strong leader with a proven record of success in education, in the community and in nonprofits such as ours," he said. "Her expertise will benefit not only our Childcare and Aquatics departments, but also our sports and fitness programs, as she provides mentoring and training for the coaches and staff who work with our youth."

In the area of Childcare, leadership will be provided by Assistant Childcare Director and YES Inclusive Afterschool Director Sara Mitchell, who spent 16 years of her career in the Lee County School System, working with children in grades Pre-K through high school. A mother of three, she has studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology at Albany Technical College and Saint Leo University.

Mitchell also has extensive experience working with children with special needs, serving on the Behavior Specialist Committee for the Lee County School System and currently serving as the director of the YMCA Easter Seals Inclusive Afterschool Program. Mitchell is certified in CPR/AED and first aid, and is a licensed Bright from the Start Director.

In Aquatics, the Y welcomes back Assistant Aquatics Director Rachel Ortegon. With a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science form Georgia State University and a master's degree in Administration for Higher Education from Florida State University, Ortegon's educational background will complement the work of the youth development department, Y officials say.

Prior to serving two years as the Aquatics director at the Albany YMCA, Ortegon spent eight years as the aquatics coordinator at the University of South Carolina. Most notably during this time, she managed five pools, successfully developed and implemented a program for the training and supervision of a staff of 60 lifeguards, taught certification courses in water safety and aquatics, and standardized operating procedures across all facilities to ensure the safety of patrons and staff.

Ortegon also has thirteen years of experience as an instructor and coach in aquatics, fitness and higher education. She is a licensed instructor for Lifeguarding, First Aid, and CPR/AED, a certified Shallow Water Fitness Instructor, and a Certified Pool Operator.

Gillan said he is encouraged by the local Y's new direction in structure and practice.

"This is an exciting time for our Y and an exciting time for our community," he said.

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