Impact Story – Youth Development

Single mom Meredith Amaru works hard to provide for her three-year-old daughter Zayla, putting Zayla’s needs before her own. When the time came to enroll Zayla in preschool, she worried about finding a quality program that she could afford.

After researching and touring countless preschool programs, she hadn’t found a place that felt like a good fit for Zayla. Some were just not financially feasible for her and others did not offer hours that could accommodate her work schedule. She wanted to find a preschool where she could feel completely comfortable entrusting her daughter to the staff.

A family member told her about the Saugus YMCA and she learned the Y was just down the street from her job. She checked out reviews for the Y and researched the preschool’s accreditation and was delighted to find out the Y met all their needs. The moment she walked in for her tour, Meredith knew this was the place for her daughter.

“Zayla and I fell in love with the Y from the first classroom we entered,” says Meredith. “Every child was happy, engaged and comfortable. The teachers had big smiles and were having fun with the kids. I enrolled her instantly!”

Zayla thrived at the Saugus YMCA. She quickly adapted to her new class and Meredith saw positive changes in Zayla’s attitude and behavior. There was less acting out and more enthusiasm to share the details of her day at school. Zayla looked forward to school and seeing her friends and teachers.

While Zayla was very happy at the YMCA, paying for the program was an increasing strain on Meredith. “At the time things at my job were horribly slow,” she says. “I was rubbing nickels together just to feed us after the bills and necessities were paid. It was a very stressful time.”

The staff at the Y encouraged Meredith to apply for financial assistance through the ACCESS program. Money raised through the YMCA of Metro North Annual Fund is used to provide ACCESS scholarships and financial assistance to families in need, like Meredith and her daughter. Meredith was nervous she would not be approved, but two days after applying she got the good news that she was eligible.

“I literally cried in relief when I got the news,” she says. “In addition to my financial nightmare ending, for once in my parenting life, I felt that I actually had people who cared on my side.”

The Y continues to be a source of comfort and support for Zayla and Meredith. Last Christmas, the staff put together a little gift bag with some of Zayla’s favorite things, donated to help make the holidays a little brighter.

“I don’t know where Zayla and I would be, if it wasn’t for the love, care and opportunity at the YMCA,” says Meredith. “The Y has helped us in so many ways, I truly feel that that Y staff are part of our family.”