"If it wasn’t for the Y, I don’t know where I would be"

Raphael, 13, has been coming to the West Island YMCA Youth Zone every day for a year now. He participates in all sorts of activities: basketball, soccer, squash, strength training, cooking lessons, teen nights every Friday, homework help and more. There, he meets up with his friends and with staff members and volunteers, like Viral, also known as “OJ”, a 21-year-old college student.

Raphael thinks he has changed a lot since coming to the Y, thanks in part to staff members like OJ who make him feel more comfortable.

“I used to be hyper and get on everyone’s nerves. They showed me how to relax and get along with others. Now, everyone wants to hang out with me and do things. I feel like people like me more.” 

OJ, who also used to frequent the Youth Zone, wants to help change the lives of other young kids, just like the Y changed his life.

“Honestly, before coming to the Y, I used to be the worst kid ever. If it wasn’t for the YMCA, I don’t know where I would be right now. I am a better person than I was before.”