See more of the story

Thousands of teens entering grades 9 through 12 this fall can get free summer memberships at more than a dozen local YMCA locations.

The YMCA of the North is partnering with the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation to kickstart its "Get Summer" program, giving young people of varying incomes and backgrounds a safe place to spend time, stay active, eat nutritious meals and develop leadership skills, officials said.

Registration for the memberships, which run through the end of August, starts Monday online or in person at Y branches. Memberships are valid at 19 metro area YMCAs, including Hudson, Wis., but may be limited per location.

Participants are required to complete an orientation before joining a facility, which includes the use of a gym, indoor and outdoor pools and group programs.

Current Y members are not eligible for the free membership, officials said. More than 80% of Twin Cities area teens live within 15 minutes of a YMCA location.

"Youth development programs are so important to make sure youth are involved in positive activities that help them grow to become a healthier person, be better students, siblings and friends to others," according to a statement from Chicka Merino, community program director for the YMCA of the North.

"We intentionally engage in conversations about job and leadership skills, mental health and take time to teach coping strategies like meditating, breathing and stretching techniques."

To learn more about the free membership program, go to