Kevin Shin-Wheeler, 18, grew up with the Eugene Family YMCA.
He spent his afternoons at Y afterschool care at Adams Elementary School and his summers in Y camps. Once in high school, he entered the Counselor in Training program. He loved it so much he participated for three years and graduated to full counselor his last summer in high school.
Kevin loved working with the younger children because of their wonderment and honesty.
For someone with a disability, their openness was a welcome contrast to what he occasionally encounters with adults.
Kevin, born with cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair.
Adults sometimes jump to the conclusion that Kevin needs help with every aspect of his life—so they rush to open doors for him or pick up something he dropped.
Y camp kiddos, on the other hand, asked him pointed questions about his abilities, listened and then moved on.
“When I first started, I would get a lot of questions from the kids,” Kevin says. “I would answer them because it is important for them to have that education. Then as they get older, they aren’t surprised by people with disabilities.”
The Cal Poly college student credits the Y with learning general work experience and gaining confidence.
“It was a good job not only for my enjoyment and building relationships, but also in terms of professional development and personal development,” he says. “Other than that, the Y was so trusting of me—that I would still be able to complete my job even though I was young, it was my first job and I was in a wheelchair. That kind of confidence in my abilities helped me grow.”