By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Teenagers needing a safe place to hang out this summer can do so at the YMCA, free of charge. The YMCA of the North and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation are offering free membership to thousands of teens at 21 locations throughout the Twin Cities and Rochester.

The “Get Summer” program will focus on fitness and wellness, but it also hopes to build character and leadership.

“Most people look at the YMCA like it’s just a gym. We look at the YMCA like it’s a family, so we want you to come be a part of our family,” David Bowling said.

The YMCA of the North is extending its hand to thousands of teenagers across the Twin Cities. If you are in grades 9 through 12 and need a safe place to hang out this summer, the Y hopes you come join them.

You have access to all the Y has to offer — fitness center, swimming pool and classes — but so much more.

“We have internship opportunities. We have workshops that we can provide to young people for skill development, resume building. If they are looking for a career and college readiness skills, that’s where we dive in a little bit heavier. If they are just looking for social, emotional support, we spend more time there,” Katie Lowe said.

Dealing with the pandemic, distance learning and separation from family and friends have taken a toll on many young people.

“We are worried about their physical, mental and their social wellbeing,” Bowling said.

The Y has plans to address the mental health of all who need it.

“We want to provide a support system. We want to be that stable person in our teen’s life, and not only just our teens but our younger students we work with too. We want to be that place of comfort,” Bowling said.

The Y will provide a safe environment so young people can focus on programs that promote healthy living, build character and leadership. The “Get Summer” program also provides a layer of protection from the gun violence that has blocked many teens from enjoying hanging outside with friends.

“We are offering a place where they can feel safe have a fun environment,” Bowling said.

The “Get Summer” program started at the YMCA of the North five years ago. Other YMCA’s across the country have adopted the program. Click here for more information and to find locations near you.

Reg Chapman