At the YMCA we’re welcoming to all. We hear all the time how members love “their Y.” For some of us the local Y branch becomes a creature comfort because of the people in the group exercise classes, wellness centers, or our pools. For others this happens because they grew up playing sports or going to camp at the Y and the facility became a home-away-from-home. For many people they find a community of folks they have a shared experience with – whether that be cancer survivors in our LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program, active older adults involved in SilverSneakers®, or Special Olympians training for programs and events.
Some of us come to love the YMCA so much that we choose to professionally join the movement, and embody the ideal of “spirit, mind, and body”. One great example of this is the High Street YMCA’s healthy living director, Debbi Dean.
We’ve “social distance” interviewed Debbi about her Y story, her passion for community, and lifelong learning.
“I came to the Y later in my life, however, I had long taught group fitness in many places but never at the YMCA,” Debbi shared from her cluttered office at the High Street YMCA. “A friend of mine called a few times and talked me into coming in and teaching a 6 a.m. class at High Street, and 21 years later, I am still teaching that early morning class (known to the participants as ‘Jump Start’)!”
The Y had an immediate and visceral impact on Debbi. “I quickly realized that it was the people coming to my class that were important to me, not the props or the space. We all quickly built rapport and trust and I have truly grown to care for those individuals.
“As I took on more responsibility and moved from a part-time position to a full-time Y career, I helped build a multiple sclerosis class, another treasured highlight in my time here.”
Debbi paused for a second as she thought about the impact these people have had on her, and their inner strength.
“These individuals… they have been coming to the High Street YMCA for years and although I’ve watched many of their bodies fail a little each year, I’ve seen their spirits soar.
“Some days it’s simply hard to come here and workout, yet, they still come to see and support each other. The power of community, the power of people, the power of the YMCA; this certainly holds true for this particular group and their relationships and love for each other.”
When we asked Debbi what else is special to her about “High Street”, she was quick to answer that it’s the membership mix.
“All of them have enriched my life. Each has a different story to tell, so my listening skills have improved over time,” she said.
“By providing scholarships and financial support, we’ve been able to be inclusive to many interesting and diverse people that have impacted my life in so many different ways.”
Debbi is a lifelong Lexingtonian. She attended Tates Creek High School, earned her undergraduate degree in Speech and Hearing Pathology at the University of Kentucky and her Masters in Communication Disorders from Eastern Kentucky University. She was employed by Fayette County Public Schools for 29 years, and states with pride that she was on the team of teachers and administrators that started SCAPA in 1987.
As mentioned before, Debbi has never stopped learning, and has recently earned certifications in life and health coaching. Doing so in the near future is one of her short-term goals.
“At the Y I can always learn new things and at the same time teach others. I like establishing personal connections, bringing people together in groups to share experiences.
“Outside of the Y I like to read, play with my dogs, babysit my grandson and spend time with my daughter,” she noted.
But when she’s here?
“When I’m here, I’m passionate about developing the spirit, mind, and body of everyone I come into contact with. The YMCA of Central Kentucky is wonderful, and it is truly one of Central Kentucky’s best places for community, diversity, and safety for children.”