Community & Human Connection at the YMCA

Community & Human Connection at the YMCA


Several years ago, Vista created a set of nine Core Values that describe what is important to us as we work to impact the lives of individuals with disabilities and the broader community. For 2022, we have chosen to focus our blog series on these Core Values - telling the story of our students and members and our organization through this important and powerful lens.


Vista is proud to work with many organizations to foster our Core Value of Community & Human Connection, including the YMCA organizations along the Connecticut shoreline. The YMCA is dedicated to creating communal spaces for people to come together and develop their health and wellness.

Incoming students to Vista’s Discover post-secondary residential program immediately begin to foster relationships at the YMCA by attending Y Be Fit classes, where they learn about fitness and nutrition from YMCA instructors.

Y Be Fit class developing their fitness as a group through stretching exercises

Ellen Nichele, Director of Health and Wellness at the Valley Shore YMCA and a Y Be Fit instructor, loves seeing how students grow together and become part of the Y community: “Y Be Fit participants can be found cheering each other on as they learn new skills by participating in activities such as mastering the climbing wall, playing wiffle ball, swimming, and practicing yoga. Nothing warms our hearts more than seeing Vista students support each other as they attempt new challenges, try new foods, and connect with other Valley Shore YMCA members.”

The relationships Vista students develop with their instructors are one of the many benefits they value about their Y Be Fit classes. "Ellen is a very approachable and helpful person," one student said during a recent group discussion. Another student added that she appreciates the dedication that all of the Y Be Fit instructors bring to the classes.

Y Be Fit students working together to create a healthy meal

The sense of community that Vista students and members have with the YMCA extends beyond Y Be Fit. Ellen continued, “As the students transition into independent living, they enjoy sharing with us how Valley Shore YMCA will remain an important part of their lives, whether it be by exercising on their own, participating in classes or working with a personal trainer.” Many students elect to visit the YMCA independently or work with a private personal trainer while in the Discover Program; these habits often continue when students graduate and join Vista’s Engage Program.

Ellen and the other Y Be Fit instructors love seeing Vista students grow—becoming more independent and striving for personal success: “We are always excited to attend the annual Vista Graduation Ceremony and see the students achieve their dreams as they move onto independent living. We are proud to have helped them on their journey!"

Vista is thrilled to continue partnering with the YMCA—where Vista students and members appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible community there!

More to come!