Many of us leave and come back to the Y. Often you hear stories like, “I rejoined when my kids needed to start their swim lessons.” Or, “We moved away for a number of years, and when we came back to town, we had to rejoin my family’s longtime Y.”

What you don’t hear often is, “I moved away, came back on weekends, and met my fiancé working the front desk at the High Street YMCA.”

Yet, there it is for the Y’s Jill Marks. That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it. 

Today, Jill’s a Child Care Program Assistant for the YMCA of Central Kentucky. She’s a key employee in our emergency child care services program at the Caroline Memorial YMCA Program Center in Jessamine County, supporting medical personnel and other essential workers who are battling the COVID-19 epidemic.

“I am constantly amazed by the different opportunities we have at the YMCA,” Jill said. “We are always changing and innovating. We constantly have new opportunities in youth development, as example with our current initiative to provide emergency child care service.

“In our Y way we are helping the community, and I greatly appreciate what we are doing and have been able to create,” Marks adds. “What we are doing now is what we always do at the Y: do for others, provide and develop friendships and a sense of belonging. While this isn’t a traditional youth program, we are open to help those in need and are present and accounted for when the community needs us most!”

Jill’s passion is for children, which culminated in her earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education at the University of Kentucky. Prior to the YMCA of Central Kentucky, she taught second grade in Danville for three years. But…the Y called her back to Lexington.

“I did teach briefly in Lexington when I moved back, but I knew I wanted something else,” Jill shared. “I called over to High Street to see if they had any openings, and they did. This opportunity has enabled to me coordinate afterschool programming, summer camp, and of course, this position now in Jessamine County supporting the emergency childcare cause.”

But Jill’s Y story didn’t start a just a few years ago. Like many of us, it started when she was a child.

“My brother and I took swim lessons as kids at the C.M. Gatton Beaumont YMCA. The confidence I gained led to a somewhat aquatic life – swim teams, and eventually lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons at the High Street YMCA.”

Jill continued with the YMCA after she graduated from Tates Creek High School. “In college, ‘High Street’ was blocks away from my apartment, I joined as a member through the ‘Try the Y Tuesday’ promotional program,” she told us. “I worked on-and-off at the High Street Y, and when I moved to Danville after college, I drove back to Lexington on weekends to work the front desk and lifeguard.”

Jill was smitten with more than pool at the High Street Y, something else was bringing her back to Lexington each weekend from Boyle County. 

“While working at the front desk, I met a certain gentleman…who is now my fiancé,” Jill added. 
“So, I guess you could say the Y brought me back to Lexington for the love-of-my-life and my career!”

Along with working at the YMCA and preparing for a wedding, Jill spends what little free time she has working on her MBA at Northern Kentucky University and getting certified as a personal trainer. 

“Someday in the future, I know I’ll have time to bake and cook more, I just know it,” she said jokingly.

When we ask Jill what she’s passionate about, she shares an interesting insight into what she might someday consider as a YMCA career path. 

“Helping others is my passion. Especially working with children and helping our members on their health and wellness journeys. I believe in the YMCA’s mission, and my dream would be to someday help open a YMCA in an area that doesn’t have one!”

When we ask her what comes to mind when she thinks of the YMCA, her elementary school teaching comes into focus, because clearly the word of the day is, “community.”

“The Y has always been here when I needed it most, whether as a child, college student or adult,” Marks stated. “The YMCA of Central Kentucky is a supportive community where I not only learned to swim, but also met some of the most important people in my life.

“I have made some my best friends here; I have met mentors, role models and my fiancé at the YMCA. The YMCA has always been an amazing community, and even today it continues to impact my life,” she added.

We’ll be here after you’re married Jill. Good luck with that journey and earning your MBA, and we’ll put in a good word for you when we hear of a new Y opening somewhere else!