Students gain path to India with KYYMCA partnership

Jack Johnson

KYYMCA, a division of the YMCA, has partnered with WKU’s department of diversity of community services to integrate students into the Institute for Social Responsibility and Economic Citizenship (ISREC).

ISREC is an extensive, 10-month journey in academics, social outreach projects and entrepreneurship practices. The program plans to send students to India, focusing on working with the city of Madurai in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Tracy Ingram, the director of social responsibility at ISREC, said students going to India will learn valuable skills from their experience there.

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“ISREC’s mission is to empower Kentucky YMCA volunteers and WKU students to practice global citizenship and social impact skills through cultural perspective building, connections to local & international social enterprise networks, and exposure to global YMCA movements,” Ingram said in an email.

In recent years, the YMCA has rebranded itself as “The Y,” with a greater focus on community outreach projects and social integration programs, such as ISREC. While The Y is an international organization, it remains rooted in the Y-USA, which acts as a kind of “federal government” of the group at large.

Many students who have graduated –– and will graduate –– from WKU have been involved from an early age with the KYYMCA Youth Association; WKU also holds the nation’s largest Campus Y, which is an extension of The Y’s “Model Congress,” housed in Washington, D.C. as part of state legislative programs centered on young adults.

The ISREC program hopes to send interested students to Madurai to work with the Madurai YMCA. Madurai YMCA has worked with YMCA groups within the U.S. on similar projects before.

“We felt it was a very natural partnership between the KYYMCA, Madurai YMCA and WKU’s DCS Department. The entire thing feels very natural because each party holds an aligned aim: cultivating young, passionate people who wish to serve the public in innovative, thoughtful ways,” Ingram said in an email.

ISREC and KYYMCA offer programs that entail social outreach projects, within the context of the issues of a particular area. ISREC maps out these programs with a syllabus –– every month, there will be new themes to explore.

“For example, one month we’ll focus on environmental issues in India, and how that impacts the culture,” Ingram said. “In turn, we’ll also study how social entrepreneurship responds to critical environmental consequences, such as water scarcity or the ramifications of the lack of sewage systems.”

Jane Olmsted, department head of Diversity & Community Studies at WKU, is also working closely with the people at KYYMCA.

“I thought it was great idea,” Olmsted said. “One thing about it- the program stretches out for a period of time; it’s built as a culminating experience. The course design is really sound and accessible.”

ISREC offers students the ability to reach out to underprivileged communities internationally, but it can also be used to connect students with valuable networking opportunities and experience outside of scholarly ventures:

“It serves as a compliment that you are able to do what you wish to do in a way that gives back to the community; regardless of what your major is, this program is serving as a resource to provide the skills and professional development to meet wherever you’re at,” Ingram said.

The deadline for application into ISREC has been pushed back to Sunday, Sept. 11, and the program plans to be underway from October 2016 to July 2017.

The Kentucky YMCA and the Institute for Social Responsibility and Economic Citizenship can be researched further at www.kyymca.org/isrec.

Reporter Jack Johnson can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].