University YMCA provides scholarships, forums

By Courtney Pischke

The red and yellow Thai Cuisine Eatery sign sitting at the corner of Wright and Chalmers streets often attracts more attention than the actual building behind it. Many students just affiliate the building, the University YMCA, with Thai food and other fast-food restaurants on campus.

Built in 1937, the University YMCA building on Wright Street provides an assortment of programs and guest lectures for the public, but many students spend their time here unaware of the resources in the red-brick building.

Such resources include Alternative Spring Break, a program that allows students to help people with poverty issues or diseases like HIV, and “Know Your University” forums where University people and groups speak at noon on Tuesdays to educate other members in the community.

“Students plan their own events and what they’re going to do,” said Betty Earle, director of operations for the YMCA. “There’s really something here for everyone.”

The third floor of the building houses 12 male students – ranging from freshmen to seniors – and the certified private housing comes complete with a kitchen and pool table.

“Cost and location are just some of the benefits of living here,” said Leo Buchignani, junior in business and resident on the third floor. “You can’t beat the location.”

The University YMCA does not have the typical pool and gym that many students often associate with other YMCAs nationwide, and even has a T-shirt hanging in the main office that says “No Pool, No Gym” to make light of the situation.

While there might not be a workout facility in the building, they do hold yoga and pilates classes and rent out rooms to those interested in teaching other instructional courses. Starting from 11 a.m. until 6 tonight, Alpha Tau Omega will be running a blood drive with the American Red Cross in the YMCA’s K2 room.

Aside from helping students on campus learn about leadership and relationships, the YMCA also reaches out to a larger scaled community – both young and old. One of the more popular programs is Volunteers in Schools, A Vital Instructional Service (Vis-A-Vis). Recently, Vis-A-Vis collected school supplies and donated them to needy schools in the Champaign-Urbana area. During the 2003-2004 school year, volunteers worked a combined 3,050 hours.

One of the biggest features of the YMCA is the Fred S. Bailey Scholarship, which provides between $500 and $800 per qualified student, per semester. The money comes from a fund that started when a local banker allotted in his will a certain amount of money for the YMCA to give students in need. According to the University YMCA’s brochure, the Bailey Scholarship is offered for students who show “a concern for others and who are committed to making the world a better place.”

Earle said this was one of their proudest accomplishments – being able to help students every year with their financial situations.

Paul Warren, senior in LAS and resident advisor for the five bedrooms in the YMCA, said the Bailey Scholarship is one of the most popular charities.

“It’s a great way to help students with the costs (of college),” Warren said. “One of the requirements for the scholarship is that you can’t own a car.”

From helping students find jobs on campus to tutoring younger children at nearby schools, the YMCA makes sure all areas are covered.

“It’s an open forum for all people and it helps to encourage U of I students,” Earle said.