Incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders can enjoy free Sussex County YMCA memberships starting in September.

Middle schoolers who sign up will have full access to the Sussex County YMCA through the Teen Training program, and can take advantage of homework help at 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. They also can attend Teen Tuesdays, a camp-like experience that offers basketball, ga-ga, Zumba, swim, archery, and arts and crafts.

“Our free middle school membership program helps preteens and young teens gain resiliency and a sense of belonging as they learn fun, healthy habits that can carry them into adulthood,” Sussex County YMCA Executive Director Jennifer Gardner said.

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Middle schoolers who belong to the YMCA tend to remain engaged with their peers, families and the wider community, and that involvement can counteract the negative influences they are exposed to that can lead to poor decision-making, Gardner said.

The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges (Sussex County YMCA is one of six branches) began offering the program to seventh graders in 2008, and expanded it to sixth and eighth graders last year. Parents who want to receive information about the initiative are asked to submit a form, which can be filled out online at


Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges is the largest association of YMCAs in New Jersey, serving more than 55,000 individuals, including 30,000 members, 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.