The historic Christian Street YMCA in South Philadelphia gives young people such as Malik Tappe the opportunity to be a leader in his community.
Tappe, 22, was born and raised just a few blocks from the center. He first came to the center’s daycare at the age of 4 and then began attending the after-school programs.
“We didn’t have the sports classes that we have now,” he said. “As I got older Ms. Stevenson came and there were a lot of changes. They added a lot more sports classes.”
Michele Stevenson, Executive Director, has been with the Christian Street YMCA for the past nine years and is pleased with the development of the programs. Stevenson has seen a lot of the members grow up and develop into young adults.
“I think the biggest excitement for me this year, was when we were able to hire a couple of young people who actually hung out at this Y,” Stevenson said. “One of those people is Malik and he is fantastic.”
Tappe is the instructor of a class called “Children Bittie Sampler.”
The class is geared toward children, who enter as young as 2 years. They are exposed to different sports such as soccer, baseball and basketball and are given the opportunity to learn how to play each sport.
The child can then pick which sport piques their interest the most and focus on that particular sport.
The class is meant to expose children to different opportunities and give them the chance to develop their skills.
Monique Smaller-Brush, mother of a five-year-old, is happy with the class and feels her son has more energy and excitement than before.
“My father-in-law used to always talk about this Y, this was always a big draw,” she said. “It’s a great program, they do everything here.”
Smaller-Brush’s son is learning each sport and has yet to decide which one he likes the most. In the meantime, she finds it is a great way to keep her son active.
Tappe enjoys teaching the class and has realized his mentoring role extends outside of the center.
“A lot of the kids live in my neighborhood, so even when I’m not here, I have to watch what I say and watch what I do,” he said “I try to make sure I stay positive and give them a big figure to look up to.”
The Christian Street Y was the first African-American YMCA in the U.S to be contained in its own building. It was built in 1914 and the staff works to uphold its history.
Kellen White, Youth Director, expressed the sports programs are just as important as the educational offerings.
White works closely with parents and finds the sports programs also provide an important skill that both the kids and their parents can appreciate.
“The one thing I learned is that even if you don’t play sports, you are going to be on a team at some point in whatever you do,” she said. “The parents really appreciate it.”
Tappe enjoys the mentoring aspect of his class and has decided to attend school to study early childhood education. He is grateful for the opportunity to mentor and for being active in the YMCA.
“Without the YMCA I don’t know where I would have ended up, I have so many friends that ended up in so many negative directions,” he said. “The YMCA kept me grounded and focused on my schoolwork.”