Erica Yahr joined Teach for America fresh out of college in 1992, assigned to teach math at an inner-city high school in New Orleans. On her first day the psychology major walked into a classroom “with 33 ninth graders, 30 seats, and 28 books,” Yahr recalled. “At that moment, I discovered I had a massive fear of public speaking!” 

Yahr not only overcame that fear, she became a strong public speaker, a skill that came in handy as she climbed the career ladder at McCann, a renowned advertising agency. She is now chief strategy officer at McCann New York. Her Teach for America experience taught Yahr how to connect with people by finding common ground, and inspired her to help underserved communities throughout her life.

Yahr joined the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges Board of Directors this month, and will help with the nonprofit’s long-term planning by identifying key performance indicators to assess program impacts. She holds two Master of Science degrees, one in statistics and operations research, the other in teaching mathematics.

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“I love to do good with what I’m good at doing,” she said. Yahr admires the YMCA’s transformation into a strongly inclusive organization. “I’m very, very impressed with how the Y has rebranded itself,” she said.

“As the YMCA moves forward with strategic plans for growth, Erica’s expertise will undoubtedly increase our efficiency and effectiveness,” Metro YMCA President and CEO Richard K. Gorab said. “We are grateful that professionals of Erica’s caliber recognize the value of our initiatives and are willing to volunteer their time and energy.”

Yahr has helped nonprofits for decades. Working with the Ad Council, she crafted public service campaigns addressing issues such as obesity and car seat safety. The United Way was one of her clients at McCann for 14 years.

Yahr was introduced to the Metro YMCA through board member Bill Ruhl. Both their sons played on a soccer team Yahr managed. “I like that every one of the branches has different programs to meet the needs of the community it serves,” she noted. 

The Englewood Cliffs native lives in Montclair with her husband, Dean, whom she met in New Orleans, and their children, 19-year-old Bryce and 16-year-old Brooke.

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ABOUT THE Y

Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges invests in its diverse communities to promote wellness, safety and quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Its seven branches in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hackensack, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility through an array of programs. Some 35,000 people belong to the Metro Y, which awards more than $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect financial assistance.