MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The South Mountain YMCA will use a $15,000 grant to more deeply integrate character development and social-emotional learning practices into its program.

 The grant was awarded by the YMCA of the USA’s Character Development Learning Institute and will help fund improvements to the Y’s travel basketball program, starting with the third and fourth grade team.  

 “We believe that youth sports provide a powerful opportunity for intentional character development, focusing on the five key areas of: Emotion Management, Relationship Building, Empathy, Responsibility, and Personal Development,” said Jason Kelly, senior director of youth sports at the South Mountain and East Orange YMCAs. “We’re really excited about being selected for this program and plan on using the grant to enhance and improve our basketball facility as well as provide more opportunities for our team involved in the program to apply the five practice areas in competition.” 

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 The Y will use the grant to introduce the character development program at the Y, with the hopes of expanding to other Y activities, Kelly noted. The grant will allow the Y to create posters highlighting the five practice areas, purchase new team equipment, and provide coaches with trainings that focus on intentional character development. 

 The Character Development Learning Institute was established in 2016 through the support of the S.S. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which is providing a four-year, $20 million grant. The purpose of the CDLI is to advance the Y’s character development efforts across its youth programs, by equipping staff with the training, tools and knowledge needed to positively impact children and help them excel in school and in life.

 “Character Development education is at the heart of our work with children and teens; it’s what makes our programs so special. We are committed to having a positive impact on youth development and this is an exciting opportunity to deepen our work in this area,” said James Goodger, senior executive director of the South Mountain 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.