Kerry knows it’s fun to stay with YMCA

Kerry Reilly, 43, has become the first female chief executive of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Scotland.
Kerry Reilly is first female chief of YMCA in Scotland. Picture: compKerry Reilly is first female chief of YMCA in Scotland. Picture: comp
Kerry Reilly is first female chief of YMCA in Scotland. Picture: comp

Born in Belfast, Kerry moved to Edinburgh when she was ten and went to school at Trinity Primary and Broughton High School.

After studying engineering at Leeds University, she started her career in youth work with the YMCA in Dumfries in 1992, then spent a year doing a post-graduate qualification in community education at Northern College of Education in Dundee, before moving on to the YMCA in Belshill.

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She was appointed national youth work development officer, based in Edinburgh, in 1998.

As part of that role, she was involved in setting up the Scottish Youth Parliament.

She recalls: “With three young people and another worker, I went to St Andrew’s House and met Henry McLeish with the original proposal and he was very receptive.

“The thinking was that there should be a national voice for young people in Scotland; that it was important they were able to lobby and influence policy and decision- making; and that at a time when there was going to be a Scottish Parliament, young people had a way into that.”

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While working, Kerry studied for a Master of Education degree from the Open University and a diploma in business administration from Edinburgh’s Napier University.

In 2006, she moved to be chief executive of YMCA Edinburgh, which is involved in a wide range of projects in the Capital, including mentoring for young people across the city, a play scheme in Leith and play ranger service in Leith.

Kerry has also been heavily involved in the international side of the YMCA’s work and chaired the steering group planning and organising a European festival for 5000 young people in Prague in 2013. She says: “The YMCA is the biggest and oldest non-uniformed youth organisation in the world. There are 54 million members worldwide and at our 2014 world council, there were more countries represented than at the Olympics.”

She was appointed national chief executive of the YMCA in Scotland towards the end of last year and took over the role on January 5.

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The job involves supporting 32 local YMCAs across Scotland, as well as lobbying politicians on issues including youth work, youth justice, early intervention and work with vulnerable children.

It will also see her helping local YMCAs to engage on the world stage and promoting international opportunities for young people.

Kerry is married with two children aged seven and nine. Her husband James grew up in YMCA in Bellshill and they met while she was working there. The family lives in Longniddry, East Lothian, where Kerry is an elder in the parish church.