YMCA YMAP Program Put Me On the Right Path

This story was originally posted in 2006. It’s such an inspiring story, we had to share it again.

YMAP group

I came face-to-face with my fear of heights on top of the ropes course at YMCA Camp Chief Hector. I could hear my friends cheering me on from the safety of the ground, a long, LONG way down. I slowly made my way across, terrified but exhilarated. There was just one thing I didn’t quite understand – how was trusting my life to some rope and a harness supposed to prepare me for the workforce?

My name is Milton, and this is my Y story.

In the winter of 1999 I was 17 and had just arrived from the Philippines, I went into the YMCA to ask about a gym membership. The woman I talked to realized that without a job and just adjusting to English, I wasn’t ready for a membership fee. Instead, she suggested YMAP, the YMCA Achievement Program. YMAP, she told me, would teach me leadership and job search skills and let me gain actual job experience through work placements. All that and free gym access. I was sold.

I started attending YMAP meetings where we learned how to set goals, write resumes and cover letters, and prepare for successful interviews. We learned public speaking, customer service and first aid. We learned leadership skills through, among other things, trips to YMCA Camp Chief Hector. I also developed great friendships, many of which I still have and cherish.

Then came the work placement. In the spring and summer of 2000 I began six weeks of job shadowing at RBC Royal Bank. I was placed with the customer service representatives (CSRs), and it was… very boring.

That’s when I learned my first lesson in being proactive. Instead of simply watching how the job was done, I soon took it upon myself to learn the routine. By the end of that summer I was fully trained as a CSR.

I left RBC to go back to school, but in December 2000 I had an offer to come back to work to cover some holidays. I wanted to accept, but at first I hesitated. My skills were rusty, I wasn’t very comfortable dealing with customers, and I wasn’t even that great at math! But then I remembered that day on the high ropes, and that with the right support and guidance I could achieve anything by stepping out of my comfort zone. I took the job.

Six years later, after working as a casual, then full-time CSR, then as personal banker, I am 25 years old and a relationship manager – one of the senior positions in the biggest bank in Canada. I’ve worked hard to get here, but it was YMAP that set me on the right path by teaching me skills, opening doors, and by letting me prove to myself what I was capable of. The best part is I’m just getting started.