When Zachary Hinton graduated from Southeast Raleigh High School last weekend, he had a little extra preparation for college and life beyond thanks to the Y Achievers program.
For four years in the local Clarence E. Lightner YMCA Achievers Program, Zach has gotten to know mentors in the community, gone on college tours and polished his interview skills both for college and a future career.
"It's a program that tries to help a minority kid to make it in the global arena," he explained.
And he's learned that working hard and serving the community has its rewards. Zach was selected for a nationalYMCA Five-Star Ambassador Award, which comes with a $10,000 scholarship.
The award's application process required Zach to take courses on financial literacy, something he thought was emphasized by award sponsor U.S. Bank "so you won't get caught up in the scams," he said. He learned how credit works, tips for finding housing after college and more.
"I figure it's very important for anyone my age to learn about where your money should go," he said.
It's also important, he said, to learn about where a young person can go if he or she works hard and stays on the right path.
The Y Achievers mentoring program gave him and other participants that chance by partnering with black and Latino role models from the community.
"I thought that was really cool, to see someone that looks like me and they were doing well in society," Zach said.
Zach plans to attend Hampton University in Virginia this fall, and he credits Y Achievers for helping to get him there.
"Not only because of the money they are offering me," he said, "but also because of all the skills that I've learned from Y Achievers, from the college essays to the interviews to the college tours. ... Just everything that I've learned, I think it's definitely going to help me figure out my future."
In 2010, the YMCA of Triangle Y Achievers Program and the Clarence E. Lightner Youth Leadership Foundation joined forces. The Lightner Foundation was founded to pay tribute to the life of Clarence E. Lightner, the first African-American mayor of Raleigh. In continuing his positive community efforts, the Clarence E. Lightner Leadership Endowment Fund was established to provide leadership development programs aimed at making a positive impact on youth throughout the Triangle region.