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Partner Spotlight: From community center to family support system

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YMCA Judson Community Center PreK

Preschoolers age 3-4 during storytime.

The YMCA Judson Community Center’s name says it all – its mission is all about connecting to + uplifting the community, whether that’s through storytime in pre-K class or providing nutrition tools for parents.

The nationally-accredited Community Center serves kids from preschool through high school, working with nearby Hollis Academy to coordinate with teachers and make sure students are learning + thriving. 📚 The YMCA of Greenville as been in the area for 25 years, serving as a resource for the community after a United Way study identified the White Horse Road area as underserved.

Its goal is to foster youth development + social responsibility + healthy living, while providing a safe place for kids to socialize, learn, and play. And no child is ever turned away because they can’t afford the program – every child receives assistance.

The cornerstone of Judson Community Center is the academic support it provides through its after-school program. ✏️ But there are also summer day camps (where kids swim, play + see their friends) and pre-K from 7:30 a.m – 5:30 p.m., getting younger kids ready to transition into school.

YMCA of Greenville - Judson Community Center - Trip to ATL3

A group of Judson Community Center kids on their annual trip to Atlanta for MLK Day. Photo provided by YMCA Judson Community Center

The Center serves 18 preschoolers, 65 after-schoolers + 108 summer day campers. But it’s not all homework help:

  • Short Sports introduces younger kids to the basics of a sport (or even just gives them space to get moving and let some energy out) ⚽
  • RECESS brings adults with diverse abilities to the community center four times a year to read + do activities with preschoolers
  • A partnership with the Children’s Museum means there are frequent trips for the whole family – parents included 👪
  • This year for MLK Day, a group went to Atlanta to see Martin Luther King, Jr.'s home, the MLK National Historical Park + Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was a pastor
  • The Center partners with Greenville County Schools nutrition program and Hollis Academy to provide kids with balanced hot breakfasts + lunches, teaching them how to make intentional, healthy choices (e.g. the kids only drink water) 🥕
YMCA Judson Community Center Book Box

The book exchange box at the Community Center.

Having this kind of space + stability in the community means Judson families have reliable, high quality childcare and someone they can trust to support their children. The staff form relationships not only with the kids but with the whole family. But who are the folks making this program happen every day?

Executive Director Stephanie Knobel has worked in the Judson community since 1995. And Operations Director Corey McDowell, who’s been with the Center for 14 years, is part of every activity alongside the kids playing, instructing + guiding. He also coaches a basketball team who plays at the Caine Halter YMCA branch and works with the Judson Neighborhood Association.

Both are constantly seeking to improve themselves + their community. Knobel will soon participate in Y USA’s Youth & Social Equity National Symposium, and McDowell is pursuing his Global Leader Certification with a project focused on inclusion.

And the Community Center is partnered with Palmetto Basics, which breaks down five simple points parents can use as guidance at home:

    1. Maximize love, manage stress: create an environment where your child feels safe + secure (like going to the Judson Community Center)
    2. Talk, sing + point: even just talking to your toddler while you cook dinner can help them learn more quickly
    3. Count, group + compare: as easy as having your child recite times tables while you drive to the grocery store
    4. Explore through movement + play: answer questions, encourage curiosity, and help your child explore
    5. Read + discuss stories: the more kids are exposed to reading at a young age, the more easily they catch on when it’s introduced in school

See the YMCA Judson Community Center in action:

Contribute to the Judson Community Center’s mission to serve the families in their community.

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