The Y’s purpose is to strengthen communities and fundamentally, strong communities are equitable communities. Our communities are intertwined and what happens here makes an impact in communities around the world. As a global, inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization committed to advancing equity for all, it is critical that we consistently communicate with equity at the center of our work and impact. The Y has journeyed through this work historically and while we have made significant strides, we acknowledge that there is much work ahead of us towards fully adapting anti-racist principles and ensuring equity and inclusion for all. Learn about the Y’s definition of equity and use or adapt the messages in this guide to articulate your Y’s commitment to advancing equity and building bridges across society’s most pressing social divides.


Equity is a continual process of ensuring that every individual has the access and opportunity they need to thrive, and are not at a disadvantage from achieving their potential because of their background, identity, or social position. To advance equity, we must evaluate and dismantle the systemic barriers to opportunities, access and resources that have prevented the full participation of some groups (based on certain characteristics, including ability, age, citizenship, economic background, ethnicity, faith, gender, gender identity/expression, national origin, race and sexual orientation), and develop relevant solutions and support systems.


Equality means providing everyone with the exact same opportunities and resources, without regard to their unique needs or how they are impacted by institutional, systemic and societal barriers. Equity means eliminating the institutional, systemic, structural, and societal barriers limiting each individual’s access (often based on one’s dimensions of diversity) to opportunities and resources they need to reach their fullest potential.


The Y is made up of people from all backgrounds working side by side to strengthen communities in the U.S. and around the world. We are committed to advancing equity for all in everything we do so that everyone—regardless of who they are or where they come from—has an opportunity to reach their full potential with dignity.

  • For individuals: We empower people across all dimensions of diversity to reach their full potential with dignity
  • For families: We serve the whole family – from newborns to seniors – and help them stay connected and thriving
  • For communities: We mobilize resources to serve our communities’ most pressing needs
  • For society: We work to transform systems – not just address symptoms – to achieve lasting social change that benefits all
  • For the world: We partner with Ys in 120 countries around the world to advance social progress on a global scale

Advancing Equity at Our Y

  • Financial Assistance:  To help break down economic barriers to health and wellness, financial assistance is available on a sliding scale for membership, programs, and child care.
  • Princeton Young Achievers:  Since 2011, the Princeton YMCA has operated an after school program helping children from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods improve their school performance and provide safe, reliable after school care.  In 2020-2021, the program responded to the needs of the community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, extending care during the day to accommodate remote learning.
  • ACE Program:  ACE (Accept Compete Excel) is the Princeton YMCA’s program to reduce chronic absenteeism in the Princeton Public Schools and build connections and supports for students in grades 8 to 12 who are most at risk of missing school and falling behind.  Since Summer 2020, ACE has also sponsored Paths to Success, an online series of interviews with a people from diverse backgrounds sharing their stories.
  • Partnering in our Community:  Joining together with other organizations and institutions in the Princeton area addressing issues of equity, racism, sexism, and homophobia.  This includes co-sponsoring and hosting events, like the 2019’s Princeton Pride Parade and 2020’s Juneteeth celebrations (pictures from the Juneteeth celebration below).

Statements on the Local & National Level

I am relieved.

After getting my hopes up so many times before that our nation’s justice system would do right by a Black person, only to be punched in the gut, I am relieved that the jurors in Minneapolis held Derek Chauvin accountable for murdering George Floyd. They believed what they saw: Chauvin callously kneeling on George’s neck for more than nine minutes as his breath and his life were drained from him. I am relieved that this is grounds for a murder conviction in our country.

As I watched news coverage of people crying, screaming, hugging and dancing, I experienced all those emotions. It was a release of anxiety, fear and the heavy burden Black people in America have carried throughout this trial – and it felt good.

I also am grateful.

For 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who had the presence of mind to take out her phone and record what she witnessed on a Minneapolis street on the evening of May 25, 2020, because there may not have been a trial if she hadn’t. For Chauvin’s police chief and fellow officers who took the stand and said his show of force was unnecessary and in violation of department policy. And for the prosecutors, who skillfully countered racist stereotypes about the dangerous, drug-addicted Black man.

But I am clear-eyed.

This verdict does not bring back George Floyd, who should be alive today and who is lost to his kids and family for the rest of their lives. It does not deliver peace to countless other Black and Brown families who still seek accountability for the murder of a loved one. And it does not solve our country’s many problems rooted in systemic racism.

What I hope this verdict does do is move us closer to meaningful policy change and a more equitable and just future for all people. We have a long way to go, but this verdict can be a significant step in the right direction – if our country has the collective courage and will to make it one.

The Y is working toward a more equitable and just future in communities across the nation – and around the world – every day. Our commitment to becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization calls us to stand against racism in all forms and lift up those who are oppressed. It also calls us to promote peace and understanding by bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help them find common ground, consistent with our inclusive mission. The Y is ready to help all people and communities go forward from this pivotal moment.

In a statement following George Floyd’s murder, I said I was sad, frustrated, angry and scared, but hopeful – primarily because the activism I saw across the country was led by young people of all races and ethnicities, locked arm-in-arm with their Black brothers and sisters. It warmed my heart to see them so visible in their communities again yesterday, because I believe they deserve credit for the verdict. The awareness they raised and the pressure they applied made a difference.

Most of the responsibility for reversing 400 years of racial inequity and injustice in this country will fall to young people. It’s a daunting task, but I know they are up to it. As I have said before, I am a firm believer in the power and promise of young people. Nothing is beyond their reach.

So, I remain hopeful. Because one verdict can be the start of something bigger, and because I’m convinced young people will make sure that it is.


President and CEO
YMCA of the USA

The Princeton YMCA stands with our neighbors across the nation who speak out courageously for equity, justice and inclusion. Our hearts go out to those individuals who have suffered painfully and wrongly from any and all forms of racism. “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Anti-Asian sentiment has deep roots in our country, dating back centuries, and sadly it has grown stronger since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States. Violence against Asian Pacific Islanders has risen at an appalling rate during the past year – exceeding 3,000 incidents nationwide according to Stop AAPI Hate– driven by hate, racism and ignorance. Too often the targets of this violence have been the elderly or marginalized, including Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old San Francisco man who died after being shoved to the street in a random attack, and 19-year-old Christian Hall, who was shot and killed by police officers in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, while experiencing a mental health crisis.

As a leading national nonprofit with global reach, an inclusive mission and a commitment to becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization, the Y condemns this violence in the strongest possible terms. We stand with all Asian Pacific Islanders and especially those who are part of the Y family. Our country and our organization are better because of their spirit, strength and unique contributions to American society.

Violence against Asian Pacific Islanders deserves our nation’s attention and outrage and demands action. The Y works every day in communities across the country to create understanding among people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives and ensure all people, no matter who they are or where they come from, have the opportunity to reach their full potential with dignity. We urge every American to join us in advancing inclusion for all and eliminating hate.

Kevin Washington
President and CEO
YMCA of the USA

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

I am really struggling to process what is happening in our country right now—in part because I have experienced it all before.

In the summer of 1967, I was 13 years old, a boy coming of age in South Philadelphia. What I saw outside my front door and on my TV screen is seared into my memory: black people, taking to the streets in urban areas…New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland…as part of the Civil Rights Movement to protest racism, violence against people of color and a discriminatory justice system, and to call for equity in the form of voting rights and access to jobs, affordable housing and a quality education.

Those memories came rushing back to me during the past week, as I watched the sickening video of the needless brutality that killed George Floyd, and the protests that followed in Minneapolis and other communities across the country in his name, as well as the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many African Americans—some whose names are widely known, most whose are not—who came before them and whose potential will never be realized, lost to our communities forever.

I understand the pain that comes with feeling invisible, unheard and undervalued, and the intense desire to make a statement and get people’s attention. I am outraged by those who have exploited peaceful protests for their own gain, resorting to looting and destruction.

As I have watched all this unfold, I’ve asked myself: What really has changed for people of color in this country during the past 50 years?

Not enough. Not nearly enough.

But I have noticed at least one very important, very encouraging difference as I’ve tried to make sense of what I’m witnessing and find the right words to express what I’m feeling: It’s not just black people marching for equity and justice, condemning police brutality, calling for an end to systemic racism and saying Black Lives Matter. They are joined by allies of all races and ethnicities—representative of the great diversity of our nation—and most of them are young people.

So, while I am sad, frustrated, angry and scared, I am not hopeless.

The challenges we face as a nation related to racial equity and justice are significant and growing, with roots that go as deep as our nation’s founding, but they are not beyond the power and determination of young people. I am convinced of that.

This current generation of young people is not only the largest generation in our nation’s history, but also the most diverse. They value diversity, inclusion and equity and care deeply about the welfare of others.

They are the changemakers we need for the communities we want—communities where all people, no matter who they are or where they come from or what their current circumstances, get the support they need, when they need it, to reach their full potential.

They also are our future federal and state legislators, mayors, corporate and nonprofit leaders, educators, health care providers and police officers. And they’re not going to stand for the status quo. They’re not going to stand for the world that’s being left to them. They’re not going to stand for anything less than the future they want.

We all should be grateful to them for that. They are cause for hope.

Reading the thoughts, prayers and reflections of Y colleagues—both those I know personally and those I don’t but with whom I share a devotion to this great organization—these past few days has been uplifting and inspiring to me.

They’re damn mad, they’re worried and they’re distraught. But they’re also resilient, energized and committed to creating real change.

All of us in the Y must understand that we’re part of the solution, individually and collectively. We should stand up and speak out for equity and justice. This is a pressing community need, and the Y always has responded to pressing community needs.

We all are grappling with the big, bold actions required to turn the tide in our country, and that’s important. But as an inclusive organization committed to partnering with young people and giving them the support they need to act on what’s important to them, there is so much the Y can do right now—even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I have seen YMCAs demonstrate repeatedly during the past few months, we still can unite people and inspire positive action to fill gaps and address disparities in communities, despite not always being together physically.

This is a time of great anguish and despair in our country, particularly for people of color and the most vulnerable among us. We cannot let all this suffering be in vain. It must drive us toward a better tomorrow.

I know the Y has the credibility and capacity to lead. We must be guided by the light of our organizational commitment to inclusion and our focus on young people. We must go forward with a fire in our souls and hope in our hearts. We must work together to create the future we all want and deserve.

Kevin Washington
President and CEO
YMCA of the USA