As an inner-city foster kid in Kansas City, Y volunteer and member, Elizabeth Bushman, was from a family that would be considered ‘underserved.’ However, despite, or perhaps because of these challenges, Elizabeth is a strong advocate for empowering young people in her community.
Her reason for volunteering is simple. Someone believed in her, and she is paying it forward.
“There were just so many times in my young life when people from the Y reached out to me. They weren’t looking at where I came from or what my situation was. They were just looking at me and trying to work out how I could achieve my goals,” says Elizabeth.
It’s this unique level of empathy and unflinching belief in the potential of each child that has made Elizabeth a favorite among the young people who participate in the Y’s Badges for Baseball program at the Weinberg Y in Waverly, where she volunteers.
Badges for Baseball is a partnership with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Using baseball (and sports in general) as the hook, the program pairs young people with adults in authority roles in an effort to reshape the traditional relationship dynamic that exists between the two in many underserved communities.
“Every session someone from law enforcement comes in and talks to the kids. They discuss values and goals and how the kids can apply these things they learned to their lives. After these talks, the kids go off and participate in a variety of different sports,” says Elizabeth.
When asked why the program works so well in the community, Elizabeth believes that the kids see the Y as more than just a place to hang out.
“The Y is such big player in the community and the kids are familiar with it – it’s a great place to bring them together. The Y helps young people understand that their current situation is not what defines them. It’s important for them to look forward and decide their own future.”