Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) is an after-school program for youth ages 11 to 14 to participate in during the spring semester and through the summer. YES is being implemented as one of the six MI-YVPC programs, in partnership with Church Without Walls in Flint, Michigan.
Participation in out-of-school programs has been shown to enhance adolescents’ well-being and sense of worth, involve them in positive behaviors, and help them avoid problem behaviors. The focus of YES is to provide youth with opportunities to learn specific skills, practice those skills, and establish the social and cognitive resources that will help them effectively navigate and change social settings.
The 16 week after-school curriculum focuses on:
- developing leadership skills
- community pride
- program planning
- resource mobilization
During the summer, youth participate in community development projects, which have included putting on a play, cleaning up neighborhoods, designing and creating a mural, planning community gardens, and building playgrounds. Trained local adult volunteers assist and mentor youth by providing expertise, role modeling, and assisting youth with tasks that they may not be able to perform themselves, such as picking up materials for their projects and using power tools.
The premise of YES is that efforts to promote positive development and prevent risk behaviors will be most successful if:
- programs are responsive to local youth culture and concerns
- youth are empowered to be part of the solution
- opportunities are created for intergenerational contact
- youth are engaged in community change
How Does YES Help Prevent Youth Violence?
The YES program is specifically designed to empower youth and enhance their capacity to work with adults to plan and implement community projects. The effectiveness of the program is evaluated over time. YES participants:
- are less likely to become victims of a crime in their neighborhoods
- demonstrate more conflict avoidance and resolution skills
- spend less time watching TV or using a computer as compared to youth not involved in the program