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Last week, YMCA professionals from all over the country gathered in Anaheim, California for the 2019 General Assembly of YMCAs. Between educational sessions and seminars, vendors with the latest products and services, and an abundance of networking opportunities, attendees spent four days learning from each other and discovering ways they can improve their offerings.

To get more insight on their experience and the value of an industry convention like the General Assembly, attendees from across the country shared their answers to this question: “What were your biggest takeaways from the 2019 General Assembly?”

Paul Zeger, senior director of programs and operations, Princeton Family YMCA

This is just an amazing event. This being my first General Assembly, it’s just been amazing to get this kind of reinvigoration, and remember why I do what I do and why I’ve worked for the Y so long. Coming together and seeing the power of our movement — what we do, collectively, as one Y — is just awesome. Hearing all the speeches and keynote speakers have just been this powerful reminder of the tireless work we do day in and day out.

It’s this great time where I can come together with other Y professionals and feel like I’m part of one large movement, and not just part of what I do in Princeton. Getting to connect with people who do the same job as me 2,000 miles away is awesome — getting to learn from them and make that connection to take back allows me to shoot ideas off them because they work in different populations. I feel like I’m part of something larger.

Brian Rammer, executive director, Fox West YMCA

It’s always great to hear inspirational stories — the YMCA of the USA does a great job of being able to provide great testimonials. The keynote speakers are always great, with inspirational messages and things we’re able to take back. It gets us energized to go back to our own YMCAs.

The General Assembly is always a great opportunity — it’s great for networking, and there are a lot of Y professionals I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over my career, so it’s nice to be able to connect with them at least every three years, if nothing else.

Randy Gaytan, physical director, Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA

I liked all the factors I can use personally. Usually when you go to training sessions, you just think, ‘What can I take back for programs and staff?’ At the General Assembly, I’ve learned a lot of stuff to help work on myself, so I can be a better manager and YMCA employee. I’ve really enjoyed that.

Paul Larson, senior program director, Greater Peoria Family YMCA

My biggest takeaway is that everyone here needs to take care of themselves better. That is unanimously what everyone is talking about in some aspect. We’re in the business of health, but you can’t give what you don’t have. I would say most of the topics we’ve discussed are based on self-care, which is good to hear. It’s a good reminder that you can’t lead someone if you yourself aren’t alright.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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