FREEHOLD, NJ (Oct 19, 2020) – Working and single parent families have been trying to navigate the new normal of hybrid and remote learning for their children since the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Many local districts, including the Manalapan Englishtown District, tried to give parents ample time to make plans for the blended school environment. That proved challenging for Gary Eng, a single parent of two elementary school children.
Eng is an application support analyst who has been working from home and needed help with his 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. He was thrilled when he heard that the Freehold Family YMCA opened its new Y Academy this year.

“These are tough times, but the Y Academy gives us some sense of normalcy,” Eng said. Eng’s daughter Karina is in 4th grade at the Lafayette Mills School and his son attends a local preschool. On days when Karina has remote learning, Gary takes her to the Y Academy from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. She also takes part in the Y’s after school program on the days when she has in-person classes. “When she is at the Y Academy, Karina can log in to her school classes and she has academic support from the Y staff. She also gets to spend time outdoors and do other fun activities. Being with other children is psychologically good for her,” Eng said. Karina attended Y camp this summer at the Freehold Family YMCA and enjoyed swimming, being outdoors, and making friends. So, when the Y opened the Academy, Eng knew it would be a perfect fit for his family. He was also confident that the Y facility would be safe and follow CDC COVID safety guidelines.

Among other things, the pandemic has created evolving challenges for working families with school aged children everywhere. In response, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County introduced the Y Academy program, now available at five locations: Freehold Family YMCA, Freehold Borough YMCA Community Center, Old Bridge Family YMCA, YMCA Children’s Achievement Center in Matawan, and the Red Bank Family YMCA. “One of our main goals was to provide convenient, flexible and safe child care options and academic support for working parents in our community,” said Y President and CEO Laurie Goganzer.

There are over 40 children participating at the Freehold Family YMCA Academy and more than 150 children enrolled throughout Monmouth County and Middlesex County. Children attend two or three days a week for a half or full day. The children log in to their virtual classes from a personal device and receive help with schoolwork from YMCA staff and volunteers. The Y offers non-contact activities, like yoga and STEAM challenges (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and the kids get to spend time outdoors. They also take part in mindfulness activities.

The YMCA is one of the nation’s largest and most trusted child care providers. “We have and continue to follow CDC and local health department guidelines during the pandemic,” said Stacey Lastella, vice president of Child Achievement. Children and staff wear masks, health screenings take place at drop off, and both children and parents are temperature checked, she noted. In addition to the Y Academy, the Y provides before and after school care in 15 Monmouth County school districts, and full-day kindergarten and full-time child care in Freehold and Matawan to support local families. Sliding-scale financial assistance is available for all programs based on need.

The YMCA has responded to the changing needs of its member communities throughout the health emergency. While the Y was temporarily closed for recreation and physical fitness activities as part of the statewide shutdown, the organization shifted to provide essential services, such as food and blood drives and emergency child care. The Y continues to offer COVID testing and mental health counseling services in person and via telehealth. “The Y Academy is another commitment to supporting families and children in the greater Monmouth County community,” Goganzer said. Goganzer added that community volunteers are welcome to lend a hand at the Y Academy as part of the nonprofit’s Togetherhood volunteer initiative. “It’s a great way to come together as a community to support families and children though this new norm,” she said.

For information about the Y Academy and other YMCA programs, visit Anyone interested in volunteering at a Y Academy, can contact Lastella at




Photo Caption: Nine-year-old Karina Eng logs in to her virtual class from the YMCA.








About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. A leading nonprofit charity, the Y unites 36,000 people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. In 2019, we provided $875,000 in financial assistance to strengthen approximately 2,820 families in need. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in 10 communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; outdoor day camps in Millstone and Wall; a community center in Freehold Borough; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; child care centers in Freehold Township, Matawan and Red Bank; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. We’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at