Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#BeCauseY: Meet Efadul Huq

Efadul Huq has tirelessly vetted so many scholarship opportunities announced through the Department of Urban Planning of which he‘s a graduate student. Most graduate students will tell you it’s not easy to find financial assistance, especially for those students passionate about community service and activism. Efadul had heard about the University YMCA‘s Fred S. Bailey Scholarship for Cause-Driven Leaders and found a chance for his work to be supported. Still, even with all of his work in service and activism, he wondered if he had a shot in getting the Fred S. Bailey scholarship to support his work.

For international students like Efad there are not many options for scholarships or fellowships. Most paid internships and fellowships within Urban Planning have to do with city level jobs and government level jobs, which requires you to at least have a legal permanent residency status at the very least in most cases. The Fred S. Bailey Scholarship for Cause-Driven leaders was one of two scholarships for which he was able to find himself eligible and apply.

Over the past year or so, Efad had also been involved with the New Americans Initiative, a global engagement program of the University YMCA that reaches out to local immigrant families. He also participated in a community organization called The CU Immigration Forum and among has also been driving the movement for U. of I. divestment from Vanity Fair in support of Bangladeshi garment workers who demand safe factory conditions.

“I feel that the YMCA is a sort of oasis on campus, with all of the social justice and environmental activism happening, overlapping and collaborating within this space. It is such a lively and exciting place to be," says Efad.

It’s amazing to see the great work of students like Efad having a place of support in the YMCA. And, in case you haven’t heard yet, we are happy to report that Efad Huq is the recipient of the 2015-2016 Fred S. Bailey Fellowship for Community Leadership, Service, and Activism.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

[Press Release] University YMCA presents "The Whole Gritty City," Community Screening and Dialogue

The University YMCA presents a film screening and dialogue
THE WHOLE GRITTY CITY Community event to encourage dialogue on African-American experiences as part of the “Breaking Down Racism” talk series

[Champaign County, IL] The University YMCA is hosting a free film screening of The Whole Gritty City on Tuesday, October 20 at The Art Theater Cooperative located at 126 West Church Street in downtown Champaign, IL. The screening of The Whole Gritty City begins at 7:30pm. Following the film, guest are invited to join the YMCA for a community dialogue and discussion facilitated by Latrelle Bright, Assistant Professor in Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois and Program Coordinator for Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre. This event is free and open to the public.

The Whole Gritty City is a 90-minute documentary that plunges viewers into the world of three New Orleans school marching bands. The film follows kids growing up in America's most musical city, and one of its most dangerous, as their band directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades, and teach them to succeed and to survive. Navigating the urban minefield through moments of setback, loss, discovery, and triumph, these children and their adult leaders reveal the power and resilience of a culture.

The film features three marching bands in the years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city: the O. Perry Walker and L.E. Rabouin high school bands., and The Roots of Music, a new band for middle school-age children. These young beginners in Roots are put through their paces by the program's founder Derrick Tabb, drummer for the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band.

Viewers who know first-hand the African American urban experience will find a celebration of the strength, insight, potential and resilience of the mentors and their students. Others will find a moving, empathetic portrayal of an unfamiliar world, and come to feel a stake in the struggles and triumphs.

This event is sponsored by: University YMCA, Amnesty International - UIUC, Amnesty International - UIUC, Channing Murray Foundation, Diversity and Social Justice Education, Prison Justice Project, the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana Champaign, and the YWCA of the University of Illinois.

This event is part of the Fall 2015 Friday Forum lecture series, "Breaking Down Racism: Uncovering the Reality of Racial Injustice in the U.S." All Friday Forums are free and open to the public. Friday Forum is a program of the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St, Champaign. The University YMCA, creating dynamic change in our communities today while developing tomorrow’s cause driven leaders.

Watch the trailer at: Follow the event on Facebook.
For more information, please visit:

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, October 6, 2015

For media inquiries, contact Megan Flowers 


Monday, September 28, 2015

#BeCauseY: Meet Nate Lawrence

It was Quad Day, that hot summer Sunday in August right before the fall semester at the U of I and firstyear student Nate Lawrence was looking to get involved with an environmental group to cultivate his studies in environmental science. He saw the table for Students for Environmental Concerns members; he simply walked over, signed up and came to the first meeting at the Y. When Nate came to know the YMCA better, he was surprised to discover how broad, yet integrated the University YMCA is in cause-driven leadership development.

“I still don’t think I understand the full scope of the Y’s work towards its mission,” said Nate. “It’s truly immense and amazing what is accomplished here at the Y.”

In his senior year, Nate took on the role of president on the Student Board and served a liaison in the YMCA Board of Governors. About six months ago, Nate seized the opportunity to take the lead on revising the YMCA’s socially responsible investment policy for our endowment.

Nate added that it’s been a great opportunity for students who may not necessarily know the full scope of the YMCA but have been involved in some aspect to be able to engage in the YMCA as an overall cause-driven place, not just in the programming but throughout all decision making structures. “At the very least, it creates a lot of good conversation around what the University YMCA values,” said Nate. “It’s also been amazing to see how the work of students here also really shapes the values and the work the University YMCA does overall.”

At the University YMCA, student leaders are empowered to shape the life, relevance, and work towards the YMCA’s mission for better human relations and stewardship of our planet. In the case of the socially responsible investment project, we nod to the Beyond Coal campaign on the U of I campus, led by Students for Environmental Concerns, a student program of the University YMCA.

Since 2012, the Beyond Coal campaign has been extensively pushing for the University to make socially responsible investments and to divest from companies that support coal extraction. Sure, the Y’s endowment, although strong, pales in comparison to the University YMCA’s endowment, 1.8 million versus 1 billion, says Nate. Nevertheless, it is the actions of Y student leaders like Nate Lawrence who encourage the YMCA to reflect and ask, “Are we truly living the very kind of change we seek?“