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Princeton YMCA’s New Youth Development and Outreach Team is Ready For 2023

At the ready, the Y’s Youth Development and Outreach Team are   (back row, left to right) ACE Coaches RJ Becton and Alyssa Roman, and Preschool Assistant Teacher and PYA site director Michael Woods (front row, left to right) PYA counselor Lilian Chipix-Lopez, Associate Director of Youth Development and Outreach Claudia Orostizaga, and Director of Youth Development and Outreach Keshon Bennett.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 had significant impacts on the development, emotional and behavioral health, and social well-being of children and teens across the country. The report adds, “Building resilience in children, youth, and families can help promote equity and support recovery efforts.”

With this in mind, the Princeton YMCA recently announced that they successfully navigated their own hurdles during the height of the pandemic and have subsequently strengthened their position by merging with the Greater Somerset County YMCA in March 2022 to become a branch.

One of the immediate benefits of this merger is the arrival of Keshon Bennett, who now leads the Y’s many youth development initiatives that focus on children with the fewest resources. Bennett has been leading camps at the Somerset Hills YMCA in Basking Ridge, and when he saw the opportunity in Princeton, he jumped for it.

“This work is my passion,” said Bennett. “My journey has lead me here and I could not be more excited to be in Princeton.”

Bennett oversees the Princeton Y’s continuum of programs, starting with the oversight and growth of the universal Pre-K sites in conjunction with the Princeton Public Schools. He also leads the Princeton Young Achievers Afterschool Program, with three learning centers, in partnership with Princeton Community Housing and Princeton Housing Authority; and the ACE mentoring program that focuses on middle and high school students.

Bennett’s professional background includes experience in the private sector with a national corporation before turning his focus to education. He then spent five years in New York City as a teacher, and has coached youth basketball since he was a young adult.

“Coaching has been a thread throughout my life,” said Bennett. “I enjoy supporting people of all ages and backgrounds and helping them find their path and how they can tap their best potential.”

Since joining the Princeton staff, Bennett has been focused on program structure and staff recruitment, an ongoing challenge in this economic climate. He and his team are thrilled to be reopening the PYA Learning Center and resuming the monthly ACE dinners starting in January.

If you would like to volunteer, donate, or connect in anyway with the Princeton YMCA, visit www.princetonymca.org.

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