Northern Arizona University and the Flagstaff YMCA have a mutual interest in helping youth make the most of their lives, and now the two are joining forces to advance that shared vision.

NAU and the Flagstaff YMCA will open the Northern Arizona College Resource Center when the new YMCA building opens in January.

“The College Resource Center is intended to help increase the number of students who pursue a higher education by helping students and families understand what their options are, how to plan and apply for college and how to apply for financial assistance,” said Erin Grisham, executive director of NAU’s Educational Support Services and member of the Flagstaff YMCA board of directors.

The center, which will be housed in the YMCA’s Youth Center, will feature a computer lab and also will help students prepare for college placement exams and standardized tests for college admissions.

The center’s services will be available to all northern Arizona youths and their families, and membership to the YMCA is not required. The Flagstaff YMCA is covering the overhead and operating costs in addition to providing the space for the center.

“The YMCA is about spirit, mind and body,” said Paul Giguere, executive director of the Flagstaff YMCA. “It’s not just a place to go play basketball. The focus is on what youth can do to make the world a better place.”

Noting that Martin Luther King Jr. was once part of the YMCA, Giguere said, “You never know who is going to be the next youth to come in and see their potential and make an impact on society.”

Coral Zayas is one of two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members from NAU who will staff the center. A first-generation college student whose family is from Puerto Rico, Zayas said her message to students who come to the center is, “It doesn’t matter what background you’re from. Education can open so many doors, and everyone is there helping you, especially at NAU.”

NAU’s Educational Support Services manages the AmeriCorps VISTA on campus and has been providing outreach services to about 3,500 students and families in northern Arizona for more than 25 years through its TRIO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education