Owning Our History


In order to heal and to continue our work to become an anti-racist organization, we own our history.

The YMCA was founded in 1844 by 22-year-old George Williams to provide a refuge for young white men from the hazards of the streets of London. Over the years, the YMCA expanded into the United States and, in 1886 against a nationwide backdrop of tensions over the Civil War, Reconstruction, and rampant racism, the Summit YMCA was founded. The Summit YMCA was born during an era of legalized segregation that separated communities of color. 

Like moments in our nation’s history, these are moments that should never be forgotten. To the contrary, these moments from our past should be remembered, acknowledged, and learned from to help us craft a brighter and more equitable future.


Adapting for an Equitable Future

On May 15, 1953, the African American Lincoln YMCA in Summit, New Jersey officially closed its doors and the Summit YMCA expanded its services to the entire community.

"Racial segregation in Summit, N.J., YMCAs will end next month when the Summit and Lincoln YMCAs merge and begin an expansion program of services to the entire community. An announcement stated: "Participation of Negro members in the Summit YMCA during these years has reflected the growing sentiment among Summit people that the pattern of a segregated and separate YMCA for Negroes, which was established many years ago, is no longer necessary." - Jet, The Weekly Negro News Magazine, May 7, 1953, Page 8.

The commitment of the SAY to learn and adapt has been a key enabler to deliver generational change for a more inclusive and just society. This language marked the beginning of a new conversation about the purpose of the Y. 


We are Part of the Solution

The Summit Area YMCA's goals today are to advance Healthy Living, Youth Development and Social Responsibility, and building community so that all people, especially the young, can reach their fullest potential in mind, body and spirit. 


In 2008, Y-USA developed the Global Centers of Excellence (GCE) network as a core strategy to respond to rapidly changing demographics and build local Y capacity to welcome, connect, advocate for, and serve diverse and underserved communities at home and abroad. In line with the Summit Area YMCA's continual commitment to providing meaningful programs and services for our diverse community, we proudly became the first Global Center of Excellence within the State of New Jersey.

In 2016, the network’s name was changed to more accurately reflect the full strategy of operationalizing diversity, inclusion and global (DIG) practices to advance social equity and inclusion, and foster community cohesion. The new name is the Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation Network or, the DIG Innovation Network. The DIG Innovation Network is leading the Movement’s efforts in outreach to diverse and underserved communities, community bridge-building, and driving program innovation so that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from, has an opportunity to reach their full potential.

In February 2017, the Summit Area YMCA Board of Trustees approved and adopted a Diversity & Inclusion Statement as follows:

"The Summit Area YMCA is committed to creating a culture in which diversity and inclusion are integral to everyday operations. Our Y will empower communities through access to the support and connections all people need to learn, grow, and thrive. Through welcoming, inclusive practices and environments, we will welcome and engage all people from all diverse groups of the community to help and impact lasting, meaningful change."

looking forward, working together

Like so many organizations in the United States, racism and exclusionary practices are steeped in our history. Even as we take responsibility for our past, acknowledge our truths, admit and sincerely apologize for our shortcomings and wrongdoings, and pledge to be better, we acknowledge the positive incremental steps taken and celebrate them as a reminder of what more can be done to create a world that is inclusive and just for all.

From our health and wellness centers, child care and early learning centers, to camp, chronic disease prevention, and social service programs, our work is steered by the mission of creating a world where all people can truly thrive.

The Summit Area YMCA aims to make our programs and services accessible for all, and beyond that, we are creating spaces and opportunities which are designed to break down barriers and empower all people. Building upon the learnings from our past, we will continue to make strides on building programs and services that support our commitment to our mission, by removing barriers and working to eliminate systemic racism and oppression in all that we do. We will work in earnest to build a community where all people, especially the young, can reach their fullest potential in spirit, mind and body.