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?“

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