20 Under 40 Q&A: Chris FrancisPresident/CEO Duluth Family YMCA
Get to know Chris Francis
What do you actually do? Oversee all operations of the Duluth Family YMCA.
Years in your job: 1; more than 10 years with the YMCA.
Education: Master’s degree from Springfield College in organizational leadership, bachelor of science degree in exercise science from Campbell University.
Family: Wife, Stephanie, 49; daughter, Cabrilla, 12; sons William, 11, Samuel, 9, and Eddie, 5.
Community involvement: Rotary Club 25, youth soccer coach, Portman Hockey Board, member of Vineyard Church.
What do you like most about the Northland?
This has been an outstanding and welcoming community to parachute in to a high-level position within an existing organization. I have already made some great relationships professionally, as well as personally. I have lived in many communities while serving in the U.S. Navy, as well as during my career in the YMCA, and this community has been by far the most exciting and progressive to work in.
How can the Northland retain younger people?
There are many opportunities for business to take advantage of educational internships from one of the universities. The YMCA participates in this program and we have been fortunate to hire interns right out of college.
Who or what has made the biggest impact on your life?
The YMCA has had a huge impact on my life. I was adopted as a child and was bounced in and out of foster families until junior high school. Most of the places I lived had a YMCA, but there was a program director in the Newton, Iowa, YMCA that saw potential in me in junior high at a time when not too many other people did. I started coaching and working in the YMCA at a very young age and then throughout high school. My time spent in the YMCA during my high school years was about the only time when I could be trusted and counted on.
What are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about the success and well-being of children as well as young professionals. I enjoy coaching both in the sporting realm and in life. The YMCA does this with our many programs for youth and families with colleagues and volunteers that are as passionate as I am.
How have social and business networking sites changed your life?
These sites have been a tremendous benefit to the YMCA, as well as to some of the other organizations I am active in. We are able to get instant communication out to our membership that would have taken weeks in the past. These sites also have benefited our organization financially in advertising memberships and program participation, and in fundraising.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment was going from a position of being a burden on society to that of being able to give back. While being homeless in high school, I had many choices of different routes to take with my life. But with the help of my natural grandparents whom I found at 18, my wife, the U.S, Navy, and the YMCA, I took the path that enabled me to be able to share my experiences in a positive way with youth and now with young professionals that may have had the same unfortunate experiences as a child that I did.
What goals have you set for the next 5-10 years?
I would like to see the YMCA continue to make an impact on the lives of the youth and families in our region. Our organization is growing geographically with the addition of new branches, which will ensure more people are able to access our quality programming.
What advice would you give other young people?
I would tell them to learn everything they possibly can while they are a young professional. Don’t limit your training to a certain field or direction. You never know where a career may take you and the more experiences and trainings you have, the more impressed a future employer will be and more doors will be opened as a result.