What’s the Right Size?

Do you know what a recommended serving size is? Or, more importantly, do you portion your foods according to the serving size? Don’t worry you’re not alone – most people suffer from portion distortion, but luckily there’s a cure! Familiarize yourself with the correct serving sizes to beat the portion distortion mindset.

serving size_smallerLet take a look at the healthy serving sizes of common foods:

  • 3 oz cooked chicken (4 oz raw) = deck of cards
  • 3 oz fish = check book
  • 1 oz cheese = 2 dice
  • 1 tsp of butter = 1 dice
  • 1 small baked potato = computer mouse
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter = golf ball or tip of your thumb
  • Waffle or pancake = CD
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans = a light bulb
  • 1 cup of cereal = baseball
  • 1 cup of leafy vegetables = size of your fist
  • 1 serving of fruit = tennis ball
  • Piece of chocolate = dental floss package
  • 3 oz muffin or biscuit = hockey puck

Are your eyes bigger than your stomach? Trick yourself into slimming down your portions with these simple tips:

1. Drink a glass of water before each meal to curb your appetite. Water provides volume without any calories.

2. Eat VERY slowly. Make meals last 20 minutes or longer to give time for your stomach and brain to register that you’re full. Speed eaters choose larger portions since they continue to eat past their point of fullness. Take your time to leisurely eat your meal and enjoy the taste your food to the fullest.

3. Choose high fiber foods. One of the many functions of fiber is to provide fullness. Choosing fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods will make it easier to push away from the table and keep you fuller for longer.

4. Eat more veggies! Non-starchy vegetables are low in calories while high in fiber and nutrients. Carrots are not to blame for the obesity epidemic, so don’t worry about eating too many vegetables. Move your meat and starches over to the side and fill up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. Be sure to keep starchy vegetables, like potatoes, corn, and peas, to the recommended serving sizes.

5. Choose a smaller plate to make your portions look larger. Make sure to eat from your plate, not the package, so that you know how many servings you’re eating.

As you become more familiar with the recommended serving sizes, you’ll be able to compare them to the portions you eat and make adjustments to develop healthier eating habits.

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Can Chocolate Every Day Keep the Doctor Away?

CHOCOLATE_small.jpgEveryone is always looking for excuses to choose chocolate. Multiple health claims about chocolate may have you thinking that a bowl full of chocolate ice cream will cure more than just a broken heart. Does chocolate really provide cardiovascular benefits? Before you head to the grocery store to load up on all things chocolate, let’s take an honest look at the proposed health benefits.

Studies published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association,” “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” and others offer promising results to support the heart healthy benefits of chocolate. The disease-fighting ingredient for chocolate is the cacao (cocoa) bean. It is packed full of naturally occurring phytochemicals, known as flavanols, that provide the beans with antioxidant “super powers.” Research has shown that flavanols have the potential to produce positive effects on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart and reducing the rate of blood clots to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

Before you indulge in the rich, chocolate deliciousness, keep in mind that not all forms of chocolate are created equal. Milk chocolate and chocolate syrup have the lowest amount of flavonoids while forms of dark chocolate, like natural cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate, top the list. White chocolate contains zero flavanols since it’s not actually chocolate but cocoa butter. The level of flavanols in dark chocolate can vary greatly depending on the type of cacao bean, the amount of cocoa solids and the amount of processing it undergoes.

cacao_smallEating more chocolate does not equal more health benefits. The cacao bean is healthy by itself but combine it with cream, butter and sugar mixes up a recipe for heart disease. Besides adding empty calories to fatten your waistline, these additions will thin out the benefits of cacao. As a general rule of thumb, choose the least processed and bitterer form of chocolate to find higher levels of flavanols. Look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao to help reap some of the cardiovascular benefits.

There is no reason to feel guilty for  treating yourself to 1 ounce of antioxidant rich chocolate a few times a week, but don’t give yourself flawed excuses to eat it every 10 minutes!

Written by Jordyn Forsyth, MS, RD, LD, CDE

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Six Summer Power Foods

cherriesimageSummertime brings to mind picnics, barbecues, snow cones, ice cream and sweet tea – which can all wreak havoc on healthy eating intentions if you’re not careful. As it gets hotter, start thinking about fruits and vegetables as refreshing alternatives to sugary summer snacks. Try some of these power foods this summer to keep your waistline slimmer and your mood brighter.

1. Cherries

If you read the nutrition facts on cherries, you’ll learn that cherries are low in calories and good sources of fiber and potassium. But the real benefits of cherries won’t be listed in the label. Cherries are packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, cancer-fighting compounds. The main cancer contenders in cherries are quercetin, ellagic acid and perillyl alcohol. Cherries are also packed with potassium, an important mineral that can help lower blood pressure. Due to the powerful anti- inflammatory effects of cherries, these small fruits may help reduce muscle soreness after workouts.

2. Berries

All berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberrie, and blackberries – are amazingly rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. Summer is the perfect time to take a look at these powerful health promoters. The rich blue pigment in blueberries is thanks to the free radical fighting anthocyanins that contribute to several beneficial effects on the body. Raspberries are famous for their high fiber content. A measly 64 calories for one cup of raspberries provides a whopping 8g of fiber – you’ll need to eat more than 100 calories worth of black beans to get the same amount of fiber. Compounds in strawberries and blueberries map help protect your brain and memory while also reducing inflammation.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????3. Cucumbers

Keep cool as a cucumber with this thirst-quenching vegetable (botanically speaking it is actually considered a fruit). You don’t have to only drink water to stay hydrated during the summer, you can eat it too! Cucumbers are 95 percent water, low in calories and high in fiber. Research indicates that water-packed foods can help promote weight loss. Staying well hydrated in the scorching heat can help boost your memory, mood and energy levels. Plus, bad breath doesn’t stand a chance against cucumbers. Try holding a slice of cucumber to the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds to let the phytochemicals kill the smelly bacteria. Don’t peel the skin on cucumbers or you’ll miss out on some vitamin C.

4. Tomatoes

tomatoes_smallerTomatoes are very popular – from famous condiments like ketchup, hot sauce and salsa to spaghetti sauce and tomato juice. These red powerhouses are mostly known for their abundant supply of lycopene that imparts their radiant red color. Diets rich in lycopene and tomatoes have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and certain types of cancers including prostate, pancreatic, breast, lung and stomach. Lycopene is known as a superior cancer fighter. This phytochemical is best absorbed with a healthy fat like olive oil. Fresh tomatoes are in season during the summer so look for these at local farmer’s markets. Keep in mind that most of the nutrients are in the skin, so smaller is often better for a nutritional boost (think cherry or grape tomatoes).

5. Iced Green Tea

Nothing hits the spot on a summer’s day quite like a tall glass of green tea. This antioxidant-rich Chinese tea may offer protection against cancer, inflammation and heart disease. Green tea may help in improving mood and relaxation based on the substance theanine. This compound helps release neurotransmitters to calm down the brain and triggers dopamine, the brain’s captain over pleasure.

watermelon_small6. Watermelon

While tomatoes are easily available year-round, watermelons are only freshly available in the summer months. The red hue of watermelon signifies that it is also a rich source for the wonderful phytonutrient lycopene. Try to eat watermelon after a meal with healthy fats to improve the absorption of lycopene. Consuming more lycopene during the summer will provide protection against the sun’s hot rays and possibly prevent sunburn. Watermelon is 92 percent water (hence the name of the fruit) and will help contribute to daily fluid needs. The water content of this fruit makes it the perfect choice for those trying to lose weight since water bound to food helps slow down digestion making you feel satisfied for longer and on less calories (less than 50 calories per cup of diced watermelon). What’s not to love about this thirst-quenching, low calorie, high volume, nutrient-rich fruit? Plus it’s extremely delicious!

Healthy Summer Recipe Ideas

  • Toss up a watermelon salad with feta cheese, mint, and olives
  • Grill up some vegetables or even try grilling fruit, like pineapple and watermelon
  • Freeze dark sweet cherries for a refreshingly frozen treat
  • Fruit salsa: dice up some fruit then add cilantro, chopped onions and a touch of lime
  • Cool down with a bowl of gazpacho soup – a tomato-based chilled soup full of vegetables
  • Fruit Kebabs: skewer strawberries, kiwi, melon, bananas and mangoes
  • Lemon-Blueberry Ice Pops – freeze blueberries in lemon juice for a bite-sized popsicle snack
  • Caprese Bite: dab of mozzarella, pinch of fresh basil and drizzle of olive oil sandwiched between a cherry tomato
  • Sweeten up a glass of green iced tea with blueberries, nectarines or peaches
  • Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup: blend together cucumbers, Greek yogurt, few spoonfuls of an avocado and fresh mint with a few ice cubes
  • Peanut Butter Strawberry Sandwich with whole grain crackers
  • Watermelon Slushie – made with real watermelon
  • Green Tea and Blueberry Smoothie sweetened with a teaspoon of honey

Written by Jordyn Forsyth, MS, RD, LD, CDE

Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

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Shannon’s Garden Dedication and Vine Cutting

Shannon's Garden vine cutting

A vision that began at a local Starbucks was realized as the Trotter Family YMCA officially dedicated Shannon’s Garden Friday, May 30 in front of a crowd of donors, supporters, and volunteers. The garden’s namesake, Shannon Wallace, was on hand for the ceremonial vine-cutting event that marked the official completion of the project.

“The dedication of the garden was one of the most thrilling and rewarding events of my life,” Shannon said. “The realization of the garden far exceeded my expectations! We are so happy to be a part of something that has the capacity to touch so many lives.”

Shannon has long had a love for the Y and it was her affection for the organization, along with her passion for gardening that prompted her husband Mark Wallace to fund the initial donation for the garden. The donation, gifted in honor of Shannon as a Christmas present, was Mark’s way of bringing two of his wife’s passions together for the betterment of the community this garden serves.

“The inspiration truly comes from Shannon telling me to get more involved with the YMCA,” Mark said. “After I approached (the Trotter Family YMCA) with my intention to honor Shannon they mentioned five ideas. The fifth was a holistic garden and I said ‘This is it!’”

Groundbreaking for Shannon’s Garden occurred in March 2013 and it wasn’t long before the Trotter Family YMCA began utilizing their new resource. In April 2013 the first seeds were planted and two months later the garden saw its first harvest.  In July 2013 June’s Cottage was dedicated in honor of long-time YMCA supporter June Tellepsen.

Last September the Y began running educational workshops, free of charge, to its members and Mayor Anise Parker awarded the Trotter Family YMCA a Proud Partner Award through the Keep Houston Beautiful organization in honor of the work done in Shannon’s Garden.

“We’ve been so blessed to see this garden become a reality,” said Dawn Dunn, Trotter Family YMCA Associate Center Executive. “I look forward to watching as this garden continues to serve the community for years to come.”

It’s been 14 months since the groundbreaking. This summer the Y will begin implementing Seed-to-Plate classes in the newly constructed children’s garden to go along with their ongoing workshops, seminars and active older adults programming.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Shannon’s Garden, stop by the Trotter Family YMCA Welcome Center or call 713-781-1061. Community gardens are also located at the D. Bradley McWilliams Family YMCA, T.W. Davis Family YMCA and Vic Coppinger Family YMCA.

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Celebrate Foster Dads with DePelchin Children’s Center

As Father’s Day approaches, it is important to remember one type of Dad that???????? may often get overlooked yet plays an invaluable role in the lives of a many children – Foster Dads.

Foster Dads are everyday people from every walk of life. They can be married or single, divorced or widowed. The one thing they all have in common is a genuine love for children and a commitment to providing a safe home. With more than 3,000 children in foster care in the Greater Houston area, there is a great need for Foster Dads to help children grow and heal from the abuse and neglect they may have encountered.

Entering foster care can be a scary time in a child’s life as they are removed from their family and immediately placed into a new home. Foster Dads play a vital role during this time, being there for children either temporarily so their birth parents can complete court-ordered plans or on a more permanent basis if parental rights are terminated.

There are many common myths surrounding foster care that are important to distinguish:

Myth: I need to be rich to be a foster parent.
Fact: Foster parents come from all income levels

Myth: I have to be married to be a foster parent.
Fact: Foster parents can be married, single, widowed or divorced.

Myth: I can’t be a foster parent if I work full time.
Fact: Foster parents can work full time, part time, be retired or stay at home.

Myth: I have to own a home to be a foster parent.
Fact: Foster parents can be renters or homeowners, live in an apartment or a home.

Myth: Each foster child needs a room of their own.
Fact: Foster children only require a bed of their own.

Myth: I have no control over which children I’m asked to foster.
Fact: While you cannot choose the specific children you foster, you can specify an age range and gender you prefer. Children over the age of 10 and sibling groups are the children most in need.

DePelchin Children’s Center is looking for more Foster Dads who are interested in experiencing the joys of parenting and want to make a difference in a child’s life. For more information on becoming a foster parent, attend a free informational orientation session. Visit www.depelchin.org to learn more.

Article and content provided by DePelchin Children’s Center.

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Fun in the Sun: Creating a Summer Safety Kit


Temperatures are rising and that only means one thing: summer is near!

Make sure your family is prepared for all kinds of fun in the sun by putting together a summer safety kit.

Some important items to include:

1.  Sunscreen: Make sure to buy sun block and not sun tan lotion for children. Sun tan lotion contains the lowest level SPF which won’t provide much protection. Instead, look for a product with “Broad Spectrum” coverage. This means it protects against both ultraviolet A and B rays from the sun. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours when swimming/sweating.

2.   First aid essentials: Keep antibiotic ointment and adhesive bandages with you in case of nicks and scratches First-Aid-kit while children play outside.

3.  A children’s headache or pain medication: Be sure your kit has Children’s Tylenol, Children’s Motrin or a similar generic brand.

4.  Insect repellent: Buy a product with DEET as the active ingredient but with the lowest strength DEET possible. This is in preference to products that contain citronella which is marketed as “safe” but is not as effective. Avoid repellents that are marketed for “deep woods” use and go for something that is kid or family friendly.

5.   An anesthetic: When children get bug bites, an anesthetic can help with the itching. Look for products with pramoxine in it, as this is considered the “gold standard” in terms of providing relief from itching. If your child has a number of bites, use some type of antihistamine like Benadryl.

6.  Water bottle: It’s especially important to stay hydrated during the hot Texas summer. Carry an insulated water bottle with cold water to drink frequently.

7.   Food and snack items: Fruits and vegetables that are easily transportable are always a good idea for summer outings. Oranges are a great choice as they have extra fluid in them. Other options include bananas, grapes, carrots, celery or anything that can be grabbed quickly on the go and doesn’t need a lot of preparation.

8.  Individual health needs: Make sure you have all the necessary items for children with special health needs such as inhalers and medications.

Our more than 200 expert, board-certified physicians know all about keeping kids healthy and happy to reach their full potential. Visit texaschildrenspediatrics.org for more information about any of our 48 convenient neighborhood locations.

Article and content provided by Texas Children’s Pediatrics


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5 Reasons to get a Personal Trainer at the Y


Have you been thinking about hiring a personal trainer?

Having the expertise of a personal trainer can be helpful for you, especially if you don’t know where to start, want to improve your technique, or aren’t seeing any results. At the YMCA, our personal trainers are ready to get you on track, ensure you see the results you’ve been dreaming about and help you achieve your goals.

So why you should invest in personal training at the Y? Here are 5 reasons why:

1.  Get personalized workouts:  Whether you want to just lose body fat, train for a marathon or just incorporate other exercises into your routine, our personal trainers can customize your workouts based on what you need.

2.   Accountability: Personal training sessions are by appointment, so you’re more likely to show up. A personal trainer will also help you develop the habit of going to the gym regularly and consistently

3.  You build a relationship: Your personal trainer is your ally with your best interests and goals at heart. They are invested in you as much are you are invested in them. As you open up to your trainer about your personal health struggles, your trainer will be able to provide comfort and empathy toward you and map out a way to help you overcome them through fitness.

4.  They motivate you: On days when we don’t feel motivated to go to the gym or want to give up on our goals, personal trainers can help motivate you to get past any discouragement and stay focused. Personal trainers can also change up your exercises to keep your workouts interesting.

5.   They track your progress: Personal trainers track and measure your progress each session. They help you set short and long-term goals for yourself. Over time, your trainer will show you how far you’ve come since you first started and what to do next.

Meet your Personal Trainer Match
All personal trainers have different niches, specialties and training styles. They even have different personalities. To find the right trainer for you, go to your Y’s Welcome Center and ask to talk with several of the personal trainers. Tell the trainer what your goals are, how frequently you’d like to work out, what your budget is and any struggles you have had in the past. As you meet different personal trainers, you’ll find the right one whose expertise fits your needs and inspire you to stay on track, avoid injury, and achieve your health goals.

Take Advantage of Our Special
For a limited time, we’re offering personal training sessions at a discounted rate at select locations. You can save up to $89 for individual training sessions and up to $162 for partner training sessions. Get more details>

See which centers offer personal training>

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Beating the Heat


Sports practices, workouts and even playing outside can be tough on kids during the brutal summer months in Texas. All too often, you turn on the news and hear about another young person’s life being cut short from heat exhaustion. Families should be aware of potential heat safety concerns.

Parents and coaches need to monitor play and sports for signs and symptoms of a child overheating. These signs and symptoms include:
• Sluggishness
• Lethargy
• Confusion
• Headaches and/or nausea
• Red, hot and dry skin with minimal sweating
• High body temperatures, strong pulses, loss of consciousness

If a child appears to be overheating, take immediate action. Remove the child from the heat and bring them into A/C if possible or a shaded area if not. Try to cool them using any manner necessary: cold baths, water from a hose, beattheheat2wrapping them in cool sheets. If a child loses consciousness, call 9-1-1.

Water > Sports Drinks
Children should always drink more water when they are outdoors. Adults should not wait until a child is thirsty to offer them water, because this may be too late. Carb-rich sports drinks like Powerade or Gatorade can be given to children and young adults who are involved in strenuous sports and physical activities. However, water is always the preferred drink for those exposed to the heat.

Dress Appropriately
Everyone should wear a T-shirt and hat when outside to prevent sun burn. If outdoor play or activities are planned, be sure that everyone is wearing sun block. Be sure to reapply sun block every two to three hours. Also, whenever possible, stay in shaded areas and ensure limited exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Car Safety
The temperature in a car can rise by 20 degrees in the first 10 minutes alone. Never leave children, especially infants, alone in the car for any amount of time. Always check in the back seat when you get out. A good idea is to put your purse, phone or another important belonging next to your child in the back seat as another reminder.

Texas Children’s Pediatrics
Our more than 200 expert, board-certified physicians know all about keeping kids healthy and happy to reach their full potential.  Visit texaschildrenspediatrics.org for more information about any of our 48 convenient neighborhood locations

Article and content provided by Texas Children’s Pediatrics.

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Diabetes Wake Up Call: Are You At Risk?

Diabetes-webMarch 25 is American Diabetes Association Alert Day, and the YMCA of Greater Houston urges you to learn of the risks and take action to prevent the disease.

Take a look at these staggering statistics:

• Nationally, more than 26 million people suffer from diabetes, and 79 million people have prediabetes.

• In Texas, 984,142 people ages 18 years and older (5.4% of this age group) have prediabetes

Individuals with prediabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. They are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

If you think you are at risk of are prediabetic, take this Type 2 diabetes risk test.

YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program
Finding out you are prediabetic can be scary, especially if it runs in your family. When Donna Robbins was diagnosed as prediabetic at a health screening, she knew her lifestyle had to change.

“I was scared. I know I have some diabetes in my family, and didn’t want to go down that road,” Donna said. “As far as my lifestyle, there was no activity. I was a couch potato and ate fast food.”

To help Donna eliminate her risk of being diabetic, she enrolled in the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program last September with her son, Chris, who is also prediabetic.

This free program has shown to prevent or delay new cases of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent overall and by as much as 71 percent in adults over the age of 60.

Many participants like Donna have seen positive results of the program. Donna reduced her body weight by 7 percent within the first four months, while Chris exceeded the program’s goal by three times. They have held each other accountable by eating healthier foods and going to the gym to put their lives back on track.

“I’ve been exercising and walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” Donna said. “I’ve been able to wear clothes that haven’t fit in 10 years. It feels great.”

The support and education you’ll receive through YDPP will empower you to gain control of your prediabetes. To find out if you are eligible for the program, take this test. The program is offered at select YMCAs throughout the Houston area.

For additional questions about YDPP, please contact Lharissa Jacobs at ljacobs@ymcahouston.org.

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Need a summer job? Work at the YMCA


Mason Badillo, 22, enjoys working with kids at the Y and getting professional experience to help him in his future career.

Mason Badillo finds it rewarding to have a summer job where he can have fun, get paid and be a role model for kids. What does he do? He is a YMCA day camp counselor.

“I did numerous activities with the kids last summer,” said Badillo, 22. “I went swimming with my group, helped them with their arts and crafts and science projects, played sports and went on some amazing field trips.”

If you’re interested in working at the Y this summer, the YMCA of Greater Houston is holding a summer job fair on Saturday, March 15 from 9 am to 12 pm at every Y throughout the Houston area. The Y is looking to fill more than 1,100 seasonal positions, such as day camp counselors, lifeguards, swim instructors, sports camp counselors and more.

Working at the Y is a great opportunity for high school and college students who want to earn some extra money and have a flexible work schedule. Badillo worked part-time at the Langham Creek YMCA while attending Lone Star College. When he transferred to Sam Houston State University, he continued working for the YMCA in Huntsville. He likes the family atmosphere the Y provides.

Summer staff get to work in a wide variety of positions that are fun and rewarding.

Summer staff work in a wide variety of positions that are fun and rewarding.

“I could have just gone to school and not worked, or worked somewhere else, but I didn’t,” Badillo said. “I love working at the Y. Not only do you feel that your co-workers are great, but the members give you a sense of strong community, too.”

Besides being a day camp counselor, Badillo has also gained experience in the Child Watch area, the Wellness Center and the Welcome Center desk. He said working in various positions at the Y has helped him gain professional, real-life experience that will be helpful for his career path.

“The Y is my second job in my life. I’ve worked there since 2009,” Badillo said. “I’ve learned the value of hard work and how to manage money. And in working with kids, the Y has taught me responsibility as well. The Y has given me a great foundation.”

If you are energetic and have a passion for working with kids, you might be just who we’re looking for to become a part of our staff this summer!

YMCA of Greater Houston Summer Job Fair

Where: All Houston-area YMCAs; Find the YMCA nearest you
When: Saturday, March 15 from 9 am to 12 pm
What to bring: A resume and a completed application, which can be obtained in the lobby on the day of the fair
More information: For more information about the job fair, and a schedule of trainings, click here.

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