As we come up into the holiday season, are you prepared to answer all of your relatives when they ask, “So, what are you majoring in?”
Why is everyone so interested in what you’re studying? I mean, even here at AfterCollege, we are focused on what you’ve chosen to learn about in college. It’s what we base your job recommendations off of in Explore. After all, for a lot of people, their majors will affect what they do after college.
But what happens when it’s the other way around?
For Tiffany Kyu, Wellness Coordinator at the YMCA in the Richmond district of San Francisco, finding what she wanted to do after she graduated came before choosing a major.
As a teen she grew up going to the YMCA and was involved in a program that incorporated elements of both group exercise and nutrition. Tiffany found that she really enjoyed these exercise classes and finding different routes to living a healthier lifestyle. That’s when she decided to pursue something that would allow her to help others stay motivated, create, and maintain healthy lifestyles.
So, when she went off to college at UC Davis, she already knew what she was interested in learning more about: Exercise Biology. She wanted to learn all about how exercise can affect the body in certain ways.
How did Tiffany end up back at the YMCA?
It’s amazing that the place that originally sparked Tiffany’s interest in health and wellness still plays such a big part in her life.
I guess you could say that it never really left her. Tiffany joined the team at the YMCA when she was still in high school. She started by teaching group exercise classes to other teens and then got her certifications through the YMCA to be able to teach classes to adults.
When she went away to college, Tiffany still kept her ties with the facility. Whenever she was home for the holidays, she would be on-call and come into work when they needed her.
After she graduated, she returned and would work a few hours here or there. She also decided that she would get her group exercise certification through AFAA. It wasn’t required by the YMCA, but Tiffany wanted it for herself so that she’d be able to teach at other facilities if she chose to.
It was a little while after returning from college that another staff member left to go back to school and Tiffany was given the full-time position of Wellness Coordinator.
What are some of the typical duties of the Wellness Coordinator?
As the Wellness Coordinator at the YMCA, Tiffany manages the group exercises. She communicates with instructors, finds substitutes when someone is unable to come in, and updates the exercise class lists if there has to be a cancellation. She’ll also pick up some of the administrative duties of the YMCA’s front desk when necessary. Tiffany is also a group exercise class instructor herself.
The other part of her job is to manage the orientation of new members. She documents new members that have requested an orientation. Then she makes sure that they’re contacted and follows up with them. When they come in for the orientation, she shows them around the facility, introduces them to the available equipment and classes, and goes through any questions they may have.
What are the best parts about working at the YMCA?
Tiffany really loves teaching the group exercise classes. She teaches a class every Monday and it’s exciting for her to see people coming back every week. She loves knowing that she’s a part of their motivation for keeping up a healthy lifestyle.
This means that every week, Tiffany is required to come up with new routines for the class. It can be challenging but is always fun at the same time. She’ll often use the exercises that she herself is doing that week and then modify them for a class setting.
What are the biggest challenges that Tiffany faces working at the YMCA?
Coming up with group exercise routines each week may be difficult, but it’s not the biggest challenge that Tiffany faces in her work.
Part of working at a non-profit like the YMCA (and one of the reasons Tiffany loves working there so much) is that the clientele is extremely varied. There is a huge range in ages as well as what language the members are most comfortable with.
When meeting new members for their orientations or just helping them out around the facility, Tiffany is constantly working to make sure everyone is comfortable and understands how everything works.
How does Tiffany go about doing this?
From the very first moment that a new member enters the facility, Tiffany is working to create a welcoming environment.
She’s sure to introduce herself first and then to start asking basic questions like, “How was your day?” or if there was a big event happening in the city, something like, “Oh, how about those Giants?”
This way she can get a sense of them as a person and how they talk, tone of voice, and pacing. Then she shapes the conversation to their personality. She also makes sure that she is really listening to what each person says.
“Listening is really important,” she explains, “You’re not just talking over them and prescribing something generic. You’re listening to their goals and expectations and asking about their exercise history. Maybe they haven’t had the best experience with exercise in the past and so you have to talk to them about their background and work to help them and create an individualized pathway that works for them.”
General advice for working at a non-profit?
Make sure your personal mission aligns with that of the place you’re working at. One of the reasons Tiffany is so happy with her current position is because she truly believes in the three mission statements of the YMCA: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Development.
As the wellness coordinator, Tiffany is most focused on the healthy living aspect of the Y’s mission, but she really sees how all three work together.
“For me, it’s just very rewarding to see how I’m able to contribute to members’ health and see people come in and find a way to make their lives a little easier.”
Homework time! Think it’d be fun to work at your local YMCA? See if you can spend some time volunteering in the nearest facility. A lot of the work that Tiffany does involves strong communication skills. Practice these skills by participating in a school club, joining a theater or improv class, or maybe think about studying another language so you can communicate with a larger part of your community.