Social Responsibility – What is it? And why be concerned about it?

Y’s across the world are developing and delivering their programs according to three common pillars of thought and action:  Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility.  In an earlier blogpost, Andover/North Andover Executive Director Alex Turek walked us through why our team should care that the Y is so focused on Youth Development.  Today, Head Coach Leah Pinette talks to us about Social Responsibility in this second of the three-part series.
Head Coach Leah Pinette

ANA Synchro: We hear a lot about “Social Responsibility” these days.  Can you tell us what it is?
Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Being socially responsible, to me, is simply about giving back and providing support to the greater community.  We do it as the Y, and we do it as a team.

ANA Synchro: How so?
Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Our team does outreach projects to the greater community throughout the season. But we also give back and support each other as a way to introduce this concept of social responsibility to our young athletes.  After all, our team is a little community itself.  Among other things, we assign synchro sisters at the start of every season, and we provide opportunities for the older girls to start coaching the younger ones. It may not seem like a big deal to send your synchro sister a good luck card before a meet or help someone learn a new figure, but any time we can get the girls thinking beyond their own world and caring about someone else, we feel that contributes to their development as a person.
ANA Synchro: And what about the Y?  What does the Y do for “social responsibility?”
Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Perhaps the biggest thing we do at the Y is not turn people away who can’t afford our programs.  Last year, we gave out about $65,000 in subsidies to about 1000 people who otherwise couldn’t pay for membership or programs at the Andover/North Andover Y.  That’s not just synchro, of course.  But, to use synchro as an example:  Synchro can be an expensive sport.  If someone has the love for it, wants to be involved in it, but just can’t afford it, then we have financial aid so they can join the team.  You just never know how you might end up changing their life. It certainly changed my life!
Leah Pinette (right) as a beginning synchronized swimmer

ANA Synchro: What do you mean - how did this change your life?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): I started synchronized swimming when I was 4 years old when my grandmother let me join the team she was coaching.  Hers was not a program that competed nationally.  So when I was 10, it was clear that if I was going to compete at that level, I would have to join the New Canaan YMCA team, the Aquianas.  But, my family couldn’t afford it.  So the New Canaan Y and its supporters helped me and my twin sister to join the team.
ANA Synchro: And look how far synchro has taken you!  Ohio State champion…competing around the world for Team USA…captain of our US Olympic team….and now ANA Synchro Head Coach!
Pinette (middle row, on right) with Team USA after winning silver at the 2011 Pan American Games

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Right!  Who knows what I would be doing if I didn’t have that support early on.  I also had to pay for my own college and support myself through college, and I know I couldn’t have done it without synchro. So, if the Y didn’t have financial aid for families like mine, I wouldn’t have had synchro.  And if I didn’t have synchro, I may not have graduated from college!

ANA Synchro: How can our blog audience support the Y’s effort to make its programs available to all?  
Leah Pinette (Head Coach): Our annual campaign is going on right now to ensure that people who want to swim, play basketball, workout, or do any of our programs here can do them.  Our speed swimming team, the Hurricanes, has been doing a Swim-a-Thon for a couple years to help raise money.  And this year, I’m encouraging all our synchronized swimmers to join in, too!  This year’s Swim-a-Thon is Saturday, May 10.  People who want to help can make a pledge on my Swim-a-Thon fundraising page:
Click here for Leah's Fundraising Page   Or, you can pledge for their favorite ANA Synchro or Hurricanes athlete – just click “Find Participants” to find your athlete’s page.
You can also give directly to the Annual Campaign via the Merrimack Valley YMCA's website:  Click here to donate directly to the Annual Campaign
This really means a lot to me, and I thank you!