Jump Start with Debbi Dean High Street YMCA

"This is not a class, it’s a family."
"When my husband died, this was the set of people who gathered around me." 
"I found my people at Jump Start."
"I didn’t expect to find the kinds of friendships I have in here. "

These are just a few of the ways that participants describe their beloved Jump Start class at the High Street YMCA. Now in its twenty-fifth year, Jump Start is led by legendary YMCA of Central Kentucky instructor Debbi Dean, who has built a reputation for community-building and inclusion as much as she has for delivering a fun, quality workout three times a week. "I wasn't so sure I wanted to start this class back in 1999," Debbi shares. "But when I visited the High Street YMCA, I got a feeling it was a special place. So I started teaching the class - at the time it was in the old racquetball court where The Loft is now - and we've grown in a lot of ways since then."

Now averaging 30 participants or so every class, it's hard to leave a Jump Start class without feeling re-energized spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically. Like so many classes, Debbi and the members found a way to adapt during the Covid crisis, meeting on Zoom for fitness and fellowship. "It was an absolute lifesaver during Covid," one member reflects. "Not just for the exercise and friendship, but for having some structure to the day. Debbi was amazing to do that for us."

But nothing quite matches the energy of the in-person class, in the group exercise studio where the group meets now. There are exercise moves named after regulars, like "the Bill," an old-school style twist, or "the Fran," the Jump Start version of Can-Can kicks. Between cardio and strength segments, Debbi invites class members to share life updates and offer encouragement to one another. Sometimes there is much celebration and big laughs, and sometimes there are tears and grief - but always, there is a sense of community and family that transcends any differences that may exist between the members.

"I had been a Y member and attending Jump Start for about a year when I received a breast cancer diagnosis," shared longtime participant Lynn Brewer. "There was a meal train organized for my family during my treatment and one day, the person organizing it called and said, 'who is Debbi Dean? She has signed up for all of the meals.' That was six weeks, twice a day. They really showed up for me."

And show up they do. In class and out, like for a standing weekly coffee gathering, and for the High Street YMCA's annual Impact Campaign. They're community-minded and a force for the Y movement through their donations. In 2023 alone, the class raised $50,000, a tremendous gift to keep membership and programs available to all.

The friendships and trust are palpable, and there is a real sense of fondness and even genuine love among the participants. Whether through the comfort of the routine of class, the high fives and hugs, or the collective giving back, the Jump Start class is a beautiful, imperfect, inspiring picture of the power of community at the Y, and how human connection carries us through various seasons and stages of life. We are grateful for the ways it both embodies and reflects the spirit of our YMCA, and celebrate the first twenty-five years of fitness, friendship, and fellowship that is Jump Start.

Jump Start meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 a.m. at the High Street YMCA. It's included in Y membership and is good for all fitness levels.


Have you been impacted by a YMCA program or class? We love celebrating all facets of our community and would love to share your story. We invite you to complete this form or shoot us an email at marketing@ymcacky.org and we'll connect!

Jump Start with Debbi Dean High Street YMCA
Locations: High Street YMCA
Category: Blog