Cristina Ricci’s love of South Mountain YMCA began in elementary school when she was doing gymnastics and playing basketball, and now as an employee, the 16-year-old shares her enthusiasm for the Y with the next generation.

“Her caring nature is a magnet for program participants, with kids flocking to ‘Miss Cristina’ when she is around,” South Mountain YMCA Executive Director James Goodger said. “Cristina has a huge heart, and she knows kids from every program by name, from camp to theater, from gymnastics to vacation camp.”

The Columbia High School junior received South Mountain YMCA’s 2016 Youth of the Year Award April 5 at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ 40th annual recognition dinner, held at the Hanover Manor in East Hanover. South Mountain YMCA is one of six branches of the Metro YMCA, the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey.

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“I am very thankful that I'm able to make a difference in my community,” Ricci said. “This is truly a very special honor for me.”

The Maplewood resident attended summer camp at South Mountain YMCA, and served two years as a counselor in training. Since she was in middle school, she has volunteered for Y events, including Healthy Kids Day, the Memorial Day Duck Race, and Breakfast with Santa.

Ricci was hired last year as a program assistant/teen family employee, helping with Vacation Camp,  Snow Camp, Kids Night Out, and other family events. Ricci also is stage manager for the branch’s production of the musical, “Seussical Jr.,” April 28-30.

“She goes above and beyond consistently, taking her commitment to our branch seriously,” Goodger said.

Ricci said she is close to her parents and two sisters. Her mother, Gladiz, is an office administrator for the Y’s Welcome Center. “My family plays a big role in my life as they are my biggest supporters, and I know I can always count on them,” she said.



Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges is the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey, serving more than 35,000 individuals and providing nearly $1.3 million in direct financial assistance. Its six YMCAs, located in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne, are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living, and fostering a sense of social responsibility. They offer an array of programs that build spirit, mind and body for people of all ages and all circumstances.