Stacy Oksenberg – YMCA of Greater San Antonio
It’s always been a place where kids can learn to swim, play group games and sports, and enjoy arts and crafts at summer camps.
The YMCA has also always been a place where adults can take exercise, Pilates and yoga classes, learn martial arts and take up tennis.
In San Antonio, what’s called simply “the Y” offers these activities and much, much more throughout the Alamo City and beyond, says Stacy Oksenberg.
She is chief human resources and strategy officer and says one of the great rewards of her role is helping the Y broaden itself as a community resource. She helps the organization add health equity centers to provide services in underserved communities and is leading efforts to hire youth who have participated in the Y’s programs. Her work also reflects a new approach to human resources.
“People may have an archaic view of HR,” Oksenberg says. “However, I’m part of the new generation of HR leaders focused on people and strategy. This is about much more than hiring and firing. In the Y, we’re about people. Taking care of people starts with taking care of our own.”
Embedded in the community
The YMCA of Greater San Antonio has 12 branches throughout San Antonio and its surrounding counties. It also operates afterschool programs at 65 community sites and has two pre-K learning centers. Oksenberg says the zip code for one of its locations has the fourth-most impoverished population in the U.S.
While the YMCA acronym stands for Young Men’s Christian Association, Oksenberg says referring to it as the Y better reflects the organization’s inclusive goals and outreach.
While she manages HR tasks and functions such as recruiting, hiring, onboarding, staff development, compensation and benefits, Oksenberg says her support for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts is an essential part of her role.
DEI starts at the top at the Y and Oksenberg is one of five women in executive leadership roles. In December 2022, Louis Lopez became the first Hispanic to be named president and CEO—almost 30 years after he joined the organization as a summer employee. Lopez, who began coaching youth sports programs just after graduating high school, is the third CEO Oksenberg has worked with who rose through the ranks to lead the Y.
Now, Oksenberg is helping people even younger get their starts in a program she launched in 2022 and is expanding this year. The minimum hiring age was reduced to 15 in 2022, and 500 teens were hired for jobs such as swim and sports instructors, member services positions and internships, taking on the roles after enjoying the programs when they were younger. This year, she hopes to hire 600 teens.
“It’s their first job and they’ll learn a lot of life skills and do meaningful work,” Oksenberg says. “We were their caregivers and now we can develop them into the next generation of Y leaders.”
Contributing to community health
The Y is also expanding its services by developing health equity centers at the Walzem Family YMCA and the Davis-Scott Family YMCA. Both are located on San Antonio’s East Side. The center in the Walzem Family YMCA opened this winter and the second is expected to open later in 2023, Oksenberg says.
The centers will be operated in partnership with organizations such as the city’s Metropolitan Health District as well as municipal agencies in communities outside San Antonio.
The centers extend the Y’s public health outreach efforts as its gyms were COVID-19 vaccination sites. The idea for the centers came from community input and focus groups, as well as from the Y gaining a better understanding of community public and mental health concerns, Oksenberg says. She’s helped create the strategy for what the centers can address as well as for recruiting its staff—both by seeking mental health counselors and training from within the Y’s staffing.
“This is about reworking our existing YMCA buildings and adding new services to create more of a one-stop shop to increase the holistic health for our people,” Oksenberg says.
Inclusion is a tradition
A fifth-generation Texan who was raised near Dallas, Oksenberg says she considered becoming a writer or an attorney as she grew up. She earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Texas A&M University in 1994, and while she was working at a Chili’s restaurant in College Station, she began training new employees.
After graduating, she moved into HR with Chili’s’ parent company, Brinker International. Her work included managing HR and marketing for a Chili’s franchisee in the U.K.
In June 1997, Oksenberg became HR manager for Fitzgeralds Casino Hotel in Reno, Nevada. She was also director of HR for Schlitterbahn Waterparks in Texas from 2003 to 2007 and regional director of HR for Belo Corp., which owned TV stations in San Antonio and Austin.
Outside work, Oksenberg is raising three daughters, one of whom is in college and the other two in high school. While guiding HR at the Y, she’s also part of Y-USA committees and projects to promote access and equity, including within the LGBTQ+ community.
“Inclusion is the fabric of who we are and it hasn’t changed for almost 150 years. I want this next generation to live out all the things that have been put in place. It’s time,” Oksenberg says. “This YMCA has done a great job at taking a hard look at some of our biases and structural deficiencies. We made very active changes and commitments to investing in our most important resource, which is our people.”
View this feature in the Vol. III 2023 Edition here.
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