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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Employees from Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi recently spent a day in downtown Memphis, learning what it takes to have meaningful careers with YMCA.

“The folks who are here now have something to strive for, will achieve excellent careers and really will impact their community,” Freddie said.

EMLE, or Emerging Multi-Cultural Leadership Experience, focused on getting minorities to choose careers and not just part-time jobs with the Y. That’s particularly important since many Y employees live in the communities where they work.

“You run it from a different set of eyes when you’re from the communities you’re serving you run it really effectively,” Cynthia said.

Julia Winston works for the YMCA in Oxford. She’s exploring ways to recruit and work with other minorities.

“What does that mean for cultures besides mine?” she asked. “How do I connect with other cultures in a networking fashion?”

EMLE is designed to get minority staff members connected to and engaged in the Y movement. There’s also mentoring so employees can meet people who can help them chart their course to a meaningful career serving their community.

“Where they are, where they want to be, what it’s going to take to get there, how many moves will it make.”

Eight hundred Y employees attended the conference. This is the first year EMLE was held in Memphis, and organizers are looking to make it an annual event.

“If you want leaders to be able to deliver on the mission of strengthening communities they have to be prepared.”

The Y is working to create a network of healthy corner stores. There are diabetes prevention programs, and the Y is helping to try to end food deserts. It’s meaningful work that most people don’t know is happening at the YMCA.

“Whether they do end up choosing the Y as their career or not, we know that because of this day with us, they’ll be better prepared for any career.”

And that’s part of the YMCA’s commitment to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.