The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Austin Smith

Y Gives Him Positive Structure For His High Energy Fun

Austin Smith was walking home from school, when his friend told him he was going to the Y. Austin was then in sixth-grade and had just moved to La Crosse from Holmen. Austin asked his friend, "What's the Y?" It sounded like a cool place to go, so Austin went to the Y for the first time.


The son of Mark and Carrie Smith, Austin started hanging out in the gym and the pool nearly every afternoon, which provided him with a positive environment. That was nearly eight years ago. Today at age 19, he works on the Y staff as a lifeguard and in other positions, such as supervising the Family Fun Center and helping to instruct log rolling classes. A 2012 graduate of Logan High School, Austin, has plans to study criminal justice at Western Technical College starting in January, 2013. His goal: to become a police officer.


While this may sound like a smooth road Austin has been on so far, there have been some bumps along the way that the Y helped to smooth out. Today he's a polite, responsible young man who is a strong role model for other youth, including his two younger brothers who frequent the Y. "Having the structure of the Y really helped me to structure my energy more positively," Austin says. "Once I became a lifeguard, it gave me a higher sense of responsibility. I enjoy the added incentive of being a good role model."


During his middle and early high school years, Austin didn't always respect the rules at the Y. He loves being the clown and having fun, which caused him trouble at times. To borrow from the "Golden Rule," Austin didn't always treat others, as he would want to be treated. These days he hears many more positives about his behavior than negatives. "In the Family Fun Center, I get to put my mediation skills to the test when I help kids work out their problems," Austin says. "A lot of parents give me compliments."


While Austin has learned to channel his high energy for good causes, he still likes having a good time and the children connect with his outgoing, fun personality. He prefers to teach young children at beginner levels of swimming lessons. He enjoys helping them become comfortable in the water and to enjoy it, which sets the foundation for learning the strokes at more advanced swimming levels.


Austin is a patient lifeguard who loves to be in the water with his students. After the work is done, he'll join in the free time at the end of lessons. One morning Austin threw floating ducks around the pool to motivate his student to swim to the toys. Austin prefers working with smaller groups of students, so he can get to know them better during lessons. 


Austin enjoys working in the friendly atmosphere of the Y. "We're all like one well-oiled machine. We have fun but we know what we need to do to keep things going," Austin says. "It's like a close-knit family here."


- By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2013