YMCA Changemakers: Wave

Working with the National YMCA and National DFA, we created a mobile app that connects youth to community-centered projects and peers through personalized search as well as allowed them to see their impacts on the community and create projects of their own.


Spring 2022


Mobile UI design

User research

Human centered design




Adobe After Effects

Working with

Spoorthi Cherivirala

Avani Guduri

Thomas Kang

Sharon Xue

Allison Zhang

The Problem

How can we transform youth interested in creating impact in our community into confident and community-centered changemakers?

YMCA gave us this problem statement as an initial starting point for the project. They wanted to discover ways to engage youth in the community.
The Solution

A digital platform that facilitating connections between youth, allowing them to launch or join projects they’re interested in, and see their tangible impact in their community.


The largest obstacle for youth programming was accessibility and promotion especially during COVID.

We conducted interviews from 6 different YMCA locations with Directors of Youth Programming to understand the problem space regarding youth programs better. I asked them several questions to find trends on why certain programs are more successful compared to others.

Research Questions
1. What existing youth change-maker programs are at your YMCA?
2. What areas do students tend to gravitate towards?
3. Are there any reasons you’ve identified for why students may discontinue participating in programs?
4. How does your YMCA currently recruit new members? How do youth primarily learn about new programs?​


Local YMCA Staff
Directors of Youth Programming
Youth involved with changemaking
National YMCA Coordinators

The main way of promoting projects and programs is through word of mouth.

Since projects primarily relied on word of mouth to advertise, causing difficulty in finding new youth to participate after COVID caused many youth to drop programs.

Youth thrive when projects are related to things they already care about.

Programs that were successful were receptive to youth feedback and shifted focus to the youth's interests.

Youth aren't getting enough positive feedback for their work.

Projects often are often conducted in a manner where youth are not able to see the impact of their work, and systems of positive feedback for youth are lacking.

There is a lack of resources for youth to conduct projects with minimal adult intervention.

Youth want to take control and have more say in projects, but they often don't have enough resources or guidance to do so.
Mystery User personas

Brainstorming solutions

I thought about different approaches to solve the problem. Brainstorming for potential solutions, we created a list and narrowed down the top solutions.

Top Solutions
1. Profile matching app - connecting youth with specific interests and various organizations. Perhaps include a digital feedback element that allows youth to reflect on what they liked
2. One day program event/summer camp - implemented to connect youth to non-profits & community organizations present
3. Website with podcasts - appeal to students on different topics - also has a network where they meet others with similar interests
4. App with newsletters - educates youth on community/social issues to incite them to become changemakers

Why an app?

I decided that having an app-based digital platform would be the best regarding accessibility since our target audience is the young teen/teen age group and our interviewees noted that reliance on in-person promotion of programs was not stable. Having a digital platform allows for wider reach and accessibility. The mobile platform allows for fast updates and peer-to-peer or mentor-mentee relationship chatting.

App research

Mobile applications evaluated were social-media based or intended to match users. Handshake, Tinder, and LinkedIn were used to investigate existing matching features between users-to-user and users-to-organizations. Social media platforms were researched to understand features for organization promotion.

Main takeaways

1. Selecting preferences during the onboarding process using a page with many categories to establish and populate interesting content immediately.
2. Searching for organizations or jobs tends to have lots of specific filters (location distance, type of organization, etc)
3. When on the searching page, there are recommended items and general categories of content.


After researching existing UI trends in current popular social media apps, I created wireframes for the home feed page, project feed, and organization page.
User Testing


I user-tested our wireframe with youth who are in YMCA programs. These are the comments and suggestions they made.​​

1. Enjoyed having a newsletter and posting home feed section that gave updates
2. Being able to chat with other people with similar interests helps with making meaningful connections especially since finding other youth interested in similar topics is hard remotely
3. Re-adjust project categories with primary youth interests
4. Allow for youth to post personal updates about projects and be motivated by others
5. Allow for youth to find organizations and peers based on distance

Style guide


Personalize the experience

Since we wanted the process of finding suitable projects easier, the user selects their interests during the onboarding process and can alter them later on their profile. These selected interests will be used to recommend appropriate projects on the project page. These interests are displayed on the user's profile for others to see, which will facilitate peer to peer relationships.

See the impact

With a home feed that displays the progress and resolution of projects, youth can see how projects effect the community. Having comments, likes, and tagging will also give the project participants positive feedback for the work they have done.


Users can connect with other peers who have similar interests and also mentors working in different fields.​ The chat feature allows for speedy and convenient conversing

Launch projects

Take full control of a project by launching your own. This provides the opportunity for youth to lead with minimal parental interference to build confidence and leadership skills.

More user testing with the target audience

If we had more time, I think that collecting responses from youth would have been beneficial in the beginning research stage. We talked to YMCA staff, who work with youth and are able to see larger trends and patterns regarding youth projects, but we were not able to talk directly to youth due to waiver issues. I think we should have found alternate ways of gaining youth input like using surveys instead of talking directly. However, we were able to get youth responses for our wireframes, which was very helpful.

Positive feedback on the concept and idea

We presented our work to the National YMCA during the end of year expo, and gained positive responses, which made me very proud of the work we have done. My favorite response was that this app seems like a response to performative activism on social media and that it counters the concept by providing a place for people to funnel their energy and passion to make real change.