GCC and YMCA Partnership Builds Stronger Athletes and Communities

A young girl at the YMCA watches the GCC women’s volleyball practice. Photo courtesy of Vince Iuculano

By Justin HAGER

In March 2020, Vince Iuculano, the CEO of YMCA of the Foothills, reached out to his friend Christopher Cicuto, the associate dean of Athletics at Glendale Community College (GCC) with a straightforward opportunity.

“Our Verdugo Hills Family YMCA was going through a small capital improvement project,” explained Iuculano, “adding 900 square feet of fitness space, along with a complete replacement of all cardio and strength equipment. I reached out to Chris to see if the GCC Athletic Dept. would be interested in the Y donating all of our gently-used equipment.”

GCC was happy to be the recipient of the 25 cardio machines (treadmills, ellipticals and stair mills) and 14 strength equipment machines; after all, the men played baseball together at GCC back in 1996-97, were both assistant coaches for the 2001 and 2002 Western States Conference Championship runs. Plus, the two organizations had a long history of working together to support youth in the foothills communities.

“We had to jump on the opportunity,” explained Cicuto. “The equipment in our fitness center was in great shape but over 20 years old. The donated fitness equipment is ergonomically sound and up-to-date, which allows for our students to strength train in a more efficient manner.”

At the time, neither man knew that what seemed like a simple gift of equipment would turn into an active partnership that would help both organizations weather the COVID pandemic.

Chris Cicuto and Vince Iuculano –

Just days after their conversation about the fitness equipment, the uncertainty and rapid spread of COVID-19 caused the California Community College Athletic Association to cancel all sports throughout the state and began a string of delays in the completion of GCC’s $23 million Verdugo gym renovation project. So when the GCC administration approved a slow return of athletics in May 2021 and Cicuto realized the gym would not be completed on time, he once again called upon his friend Vince Iuculano. And this summer, GCC and the YMCA entered into a facility use agreement to allow the GCC women’s volleyball and basketball teams and the men’s basketball team use of the Verdugo Hills Family YMCA, connecting the college to the community in a way that might only have existed in the two men’s minds before the pandemic. Until the GCC project is completed, the YMCA is housing practices and is providing access for those athletes to use their newly remodeled fitness space.

Both men expressed hope that the partnership will not end simply by donating equipment and sharing space.

“Both of our institutions provide opportunities to all of our community members to grow academically, socially, physically and spiritually. Vince and I have been collaborating on a partnership in potential employment through our Job Placement Center,” Cicuto said. “In addition, I hope to host kinesiology courses at the YMCA locations to complement the fitness programs already offered. Vince and I have also been brainstorming on fundraising events for unique populations such as veterans, student athletes, and at-risk students.”

Added Iuculano, “The hope is that together GCC and the Y can continue to fill gaps in service to our shared community, help address the health equity crisis we are confronted with, and to continually enrich the lives of all people who come into contact with our two organizations.”