It was during Bethany Young’s fieldwork requirements while studying towards a bachelor’s degree in the health sciences from Springfield College when she was first introduced to working with individuals with special needs. This is a journey that has led to a successful career with the Kehillah program at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, which has now led to Young being selected as one of the BusinessWest 40 under Forty recipients for 2018.
The 40 Under Forty is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. who are making a difference in the community. It’s the commitment of individuals like Young, and her hard work with the special needs program at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, that makes the 40 Under Forty a special celebration.
“It was at the conclusion of my fieldwork at the Jewish Community Center when I was offered a job working with the summer program at the JCC, which led to a full-time position in the health and wellness side of the JCC,” explained Young, who graduated from Springfield College in 2013. “It was during my time working at the summer camp when I found myself drawn to the inclusion campers, who were the campers with special needs. In talking with the previous Kehillah program director, she asked me if I ever thought about working with special needs programs, and she kind of took my under her guidance after that conversation. Since that opportunity, I have been with the Kehillah program ever since, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
It has been Young’s impressive work at the Jewish Community Center as director of the Kehillah Program that got the attention of Janice Greenberg, who served as a Jewish Community Center board member for many years, and also has a strong passion for assisting individuals with special needs.
“I have been involved in the Kehillah program since its very beginning, and I have been so impressed with Bethany’s work ethic and commitment to the program,” said Greenberg, who nominated Young for the 40 Under Forty honor. “She truly cares about the special needs individuals she works with, and has helped grow the program so much. She just has a great way about her that people really enjoy, and I know the kids and families involved with the Kehillah program really enjoy.”
Through the guidance of Young’s leadership, the Kehillah program now includes an inclusive summer camp, weekly classes that offer recreational and social enrichment programing, a recently opened SensiPlay sensory motor gym for kids looking for some occupational therapy sensory needs, adaptive aquatics, and a Best Buddies and fitness buddies program, that are friendship building programs.
“I think one of the most important growth aspects of the Kehillah program has been its development from just a kids specific program, to a program that also offers support to young adults and adults,” said Greenberg. “Bethany’s skills to encourage collaboration are very impressive. She is able to oversee a successful staff, manage a budget, on top of organizing and implementing successful programming for her department. Overall, she just gets things done for the individuals in the special needs program. These qualities have made her very worthy of the 40 Under Forty honor.”
The Kehillah program’s impact on the community grows each and every day, and Young was able to recap a special moment that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
“We had a child during our summer camp program who had some significant verbal challenges, and the parents weren’t sure if they were going to send their child to the camp, but the youngster ended up coming to camp, and had an amazing week,” added Young. “In fact, the child ended up coming for multiple weeks after that. You see how much the programs we offer mean to the families, and it’s special, and it reminds us why we love being a part of the Kehillah program.”
Young will officially receive her 40 Under Forty honor on Thursday, June 21 at a ceremony at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, Mass where she will be surrounded by family and friends who have assisted her along this journey.
“Everyone has been so supportive, and it will rewarding to have everyone share this moment with me,” said Young. “My family is coming to the ceremony and they are excited. And Janice has become such a good friend, and I am so appreciative of her support over the years.”