I was pleased to see such an extensive article on the new Ketchum-Downtown YMCA ("There's Everything From A to Z at the Downtown Y" by Gary Libman, Oct. 7). The re-establishing of the Y after an absence of so many years is indeed good news to everyone.
However, I am writing this letter specifically to address the comment about the group of California health clubs that is objecting to the "Y's charitable, tax-exempt status, contending that it no longer serves the poor." I am very familiar with 400 "poor" (i.e., economically disadvantaged) children that the Y is serving very well.
I am principal of Ann Street School, which is located in the central city, a few blocks northeast of Chinatown. We have a unique student population. Half our pupils are limited-English speaking. We provide a Spanish bilingual program and a Cantonese bilingual program. Our attendance area is the William Mead Homes, a federal housing project. Every one of our students lives in the project, which is very isolated, even though it is quite close to the downtown area. The project and our school are surrounded by the railroad tracks, the county jail, the Department of Water and Power and light industry. Our children have nowhere to play except the schoolyard.
The Ketchum-Downtown Y has invited our entire student body to participate in a unique program of recreation and physical education. Every week a busload of students arrives at the Y for an hour of swimming and an hour of another activity (basketball, volleyball, aerobics, etc.). Our students are receiving the finest instruction from the highly qualified Y staff. This program began the week the Y opened.
A number of parents were hesitant to permit their children to participate in the program. Some were afraid to allow their child to ride on the bus. Others were concerned about their children's safety in the pool. Nearly all of our students do not know how to swim. The majority has not had any swimming instruction. Very few have ever been in an indoor pool. One child was not permitted to go in the pool because "he had a cold." He later admitted that he did not have a swimsuit.
Our staff participates, too. Teachers and paraprofessionals jump right in with their students. Everyone swims, jumps, skips, dribbles, shoots baskets and spikes volleyballs under the caring instruction of the Y's well-trained staff. By the time the outing is over, students and teachers alike are exhilarated, exhausted and filled with a new spirit of camaraderie.
We have only been participating in this special program for a very short time, but already it has made a great difference in the lives of our students and their parents and to our staff members. The Ketchum-Downtown Y is providing our economically disadvantaged students with an opportunity that they are not normally afforded, a taste of life that more advantaged students might take for granted.
MRS. ANNE ELDER, principal
Ann Street Elementary School