Volume XIII | Issue 2 | Fall 2013
Scott Eastman fishes on the Sacramento River while his son Ryan guides the boat. Eastman is the executive director of the Siskiyou Family YMCA in Yreka, Calif. Photo: Kim Eastman

Encouraging boys and men to step up

The director of the YMCA in Yreka serves as a role model

Scott Eastman works with volunteers daily and says the organization he operates runs “off the backs” of those individuals.

Eastman, 37, is the executive director of the Siskiyou Family YMCA in Yreka, Calif. He directs a staff that includes just two full-time employees, between 25 and 30 part-timers and a volunteer crew of 200 to 250. 

“The volunteer effort and support we’re given in this rural community is what keeps us here year to year,” he says. “The Y’s success is directly related to the passion we have from our volunteers.”

Eastman sees room for boys and men to step up

The male-female split among his volunteers is heavily activity-specific. About 70% of youth sports coaches are men; most volunteer spots for other activities are filled by women. 

“If you’re looking for volunteers who are going to volunteer purely as a social responsibility to give back, it’s probably more women than men,” he says.

It’s a trend, Eastman guesses, that is on par with the rest of the nation, as well as across age groups in Yreka.

In 2003, Eastman was a participant in the first Yreka Ford Institute Leadership Program. “It had a tremendous impact on my career and on some of the programming that we created,” he says.

Y’s Teen Leadership Council

One of the leadership program spin-offs was the Y’s Teen Leadership Council, which consists of seven girls and seven boys elected by their peers. The council advises the Y on teen programming and helps community groups, like the Soroptomists and Rotary club, with their events.

Eastman says the group formed because the teens wanted to combat a negative image in the community. “They felt like teens had a bad rap, that community members saw teens as being irresponsible.” The teens on the council often become camp counselors and part-time staff members at the Y.

The council teens are heavily vetted through their peers, teachers and other community members to qualify for the leadership position. Like with adult volunteers, Eastman says it’s easier to find qualified girls to fill the council.

“We’ve been very lucky. The guys that we’ve had have been phenomenal, but when you go through the list of candidates, it’s 10 to 12 girls and five to seven guys. There’s a greater social-responsibility disconnect from young men.”

Eastman speaks frankly about what he sees as the gender differences in volunteerism. “The heavy push to equalize girls’ opportunities has almost allowed boys to become lazy. I see a lot of boys just defer to the girls who have their stuff together. The boys are capable. It’s just a loss of perspective of what their role is.” 

He also believes less-connected fathers mean a lack of role models for young men. And finally, “some of it is a hard-wired difference between men and women.” 

As a coach of both sexes, Eastman has seen the different mentality first-hand: Boys operate on a competitive basis, while girls often focus on getting the group working well together first and the game second.

Room for boys

Eastman applauds the increased role for women in community involvement and leadership, but he sees room for boys and men to step up and join in.

“This is a point in history where we’re seeing more leadership qualities being expressed by women, when previously they were suppressed. 

“But whenever there is a lack of balance between the genders, there is a problem,” he says. “‘We’ is stronger than ‘Me.’ You’re a better family when you’re thinking about more than yourself. We’re a better society when we’re focused on more than ourselves.”

A transplant from Maryland, Eastman moved to Yreka at age 7 when his father began a private medical practice in the area. He describes the Northern California town of just under 8,000 people as a “kind of a ‘Cheers’ environment,” referring to the television series. “You know everybody.”  

Eastman fully expected to leave Yreka when he grew up. He attended Pacific Union College in Napa Valley and studied commercial fitness management. He planned to be a strength coach. An athlete himself, he spent four years on the U.S. Whitewater Rafting Team.

He soon discovered he wanted to shift his focus. “It became apparent that my joy and love was working with kids and teens than with professional athletes.” 

In 1999 Eastman, his wife, Kim, and their three children moved back to Yreka. In 2000 he became the program director at the Y and has been the executive director for almost four years.

About the same time Eastman was hired at the Y, the City of Yreka and the YMCA contracted to have the Y run all of its adult and children’s recreation programs. Between the city and Y programs, Eastman says there are about 42 youth programs and 11 adult programs.

“Our Y is not just a fitness center, it extends beyond the walls of our building.” The organization served 4,800 people in the county in 2012 on an operating budget of about $575,000.

Eastman’s favorite days are out of the office, guiding rafts on the Klamath River, also a part of the Y’s programming.

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