Racine Ly: CHS Grad Credits CYAP For Brighter Future

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May 2022

We are proud to feature Carmel High School grad Racine Ly on our cover this month in recognition of his acceptance to Indiana University this fall in the Groups Scholars Program.

Ly was one of Carmel Youth Assistance Program’s (CYAP) very first participants when it launched in 2015. His success reflects his efforts, hard work and commitment to his future as well as a testament to CYAP’s dedication to the children and families that it serves.

Ly has demonstrated his commitment to his future and as a result, he was awarded a scholarship, which has Melissa Yarger, CYAP early intervention advocate, beaming with pride.

One Hand Washes The Other

Yarger has worked with Ly and his family for the last several years and she shared her thoughts about witnessing Ly’s growth and accomplishments.

“I’ve known Racine for several years,” Yarger shared. “They’ve been with us for a long time and when I started [CYAP], I was working a lot with high school students, and I got to know Racine. I never would have thought that I would be so excited to see someone else’s kid graduate high school. It’s something that he really deserves. I think the McKinney family has always been such a good example of what the right kind of support can do,” Yarger said. “When I first met Racine, his life looked a little bit different and to see how far he’s made it—I’ve gotten emotional about it because it’s wonderful to see that what [CYAP] does is working and that the blood, sweat and tears are worth it to make sure that we have more kids get into college like Racine has.”

Yarger continued, “I think Racine has grown a lot—maturity-wise. We worked on his college application together and we spent a few hours putting it together, and once he started writing his essay, he was able to self-reflect on what he has done and what he could’ve done better throughout his high school career. He made this really good analogy. He said, ‘You can’t just hope for the best, you have to ask for help before the wheels fall of the bus.’”

Yarger spoke on the importance of having Myla’s [Ly’s mother] support and how imperative it is to have the parent/guardian’s support while working with CYAP.

“Myla is the ideal parent to work with because she is responsive, interested and willing to do what she needs to do to make sure that her kids are happy and successful,” Yarger emphasized. “If parents aren’t responsive to us and they don’t keep an open line of communication with us, our hands are kind of tied and we’re limited in what we can do.”

CYAP Impacts The Entire Family Unit

We sat down with Myla to learn more about her family’s personal journey and how CYAP changed the trajectory of [Ly’s] life as well as her two younger sons.

“I had been divorced for probably two years when we moved to Carmel,” Myla shared. “We had a lot going on in those years and I needed a safer environment, as a single mom and wanted to make sure that my boys had a safe place to be.”

Myla and her sons got involved in a local bible study group and eventually was introduced to the CYAP Summer Meals program which she calls a “godsend.” CYAP put her in touch with the Merciful Help Center for school supplies and backpacks and other community programs that provided assistance with holiday meals and gifts for her boys.

“Maggie Figge [CYAP] and Melissa really helped with making sure we had shoes for the boys’ because they wear such large sizes and are difficult to find,” Myla said. “And the first year we were with CYAP they offered summer camp spots at Camp Tecumseh. All three of my boys were allowed to go and that is something that I could never afford. They went every summer and would come back more independent, more grown and loving God—which is really wonderful. Racine went back to [Camp Tecumseh] as a camp counselor and he grew tremendously. I think he understood himself a little better because of that experience.”

The World Is Racine’s Oyster

Throughout our discussion with Ly and Myla, it become apparent that Ly is not only a thoughtful, compassionate, and driven young man—he is also adventurous and eager to try new experiences. Both Myla and Yarger commented on how much Ly’s confidence has grown over the years and is what is going to open new doors and experiences as he heads down to Bloomington this summer to become acclimated with the Groups Scholars programs and his peers.

Racine Ly CYAP Participant

When asked what he appreciates most about CYAP and working with Melissa, Ly replied, “Melissa said to me, ‘I’m never going to look at you differently’ and that’s just freeing and why I appreciate her so much. It was mostly seeing Melissa go through all this stuff and I was sitting there knowing that she’s been picking us up and taking us to group and then coordinating with all the parents every week. It was crazy to see, and it was inspiring. I didn’t want to be slacking because I couldn’t watch her do all that and then disrespect her to her face like that.”

Ly shared that working with Yarger, who held him accountable especially during the COVID lockdown period and virtual learning, is what carried him through those time periods.

And now, as he prepares for college and to enjoy the fruits of his hard work and determination, Ly reflects back on everything he’s learned from CYAP, his mother, his experiences at Camp Tecumseh and other life experiences that he has grown from and persevered through. He is ready for the next chapter of his purposeful life and is realizing the impact that one person can have and the ripple effect that is has.

“The whole time I was applying for Group Scholars, I thought ‘What is the point,’” Ly expressed. “I didn’t believe that I would get into it until the day they sent me the acceptance letter. It was crazy. I was stressing for months about ‘the plan’ and not for my future life but what I was going to do in the next year.”

Racine Ly CYAP Participant

Once he received that acceptance letter, Ly said it was time to “go hard” and he became inspired to think about his future.

“I’m excited for this summer,” Ly said. “I’m excited to go to Groups and get to know people and see what classes are like and stuff like that. I’m going to go off of that and see kind of how I’m feeling once I’m there and see what interests me. I like to experience different things and my hobbies are whatever I find fun that month. I like music and I’ve always been good at science.”

Whatever Ly finds to be his passions in this life, he is bound to pursue them with confidence and a sense of purpose that some adults are still yearning to find. And again, he is proof positive that when a community invests in its youth via programs like CYAP, it is strengthening the community’s present and its future.

We wish you all the best throughout your college years, Racine! Be the change you wish to see.

For more information about the services provided by Carmel Youth Assistance Program or to learn more about becoming a mentor or volunteer, visit youthassistance.org/carmel/.