Here, at New Orleans Mom, our team has been busy learning about the effects of systematic racism and white privilege. We participated in #sharethemicnow to lift up voices of moms of color in our local community. We’ve been supporting many of our favorite Black-owned local businesses and are having conversations with our kids about race. As we begin taking steps as an organization to effect lasting change in the city of New Orleans, we’re starting a new monthly blog series to lift up local organizations doing important work serving people of color in our area. Our hope is to highlight what is already being done and raise awareness as to how we as a community can support these organizations in their efforts.
We’re kicking off this new project with one of my personal favorites: Youth Empowerment Project.
How YEP got started
Founded in 2004, Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. At its inception, YEP was the first juvenile reentry program for formerly incarcerated children in the state of Louisiana. They have since expanded their programming to engage young people who live in poverty, are out of school or work, or have experienced trauma. Nearly 80% of their participants report an annual household income of less than $20,000 and 74% reside in single parent households.
What YEP does
Today, YEP is the largest organization in the Greater New Orleans region focused on providing comprehensive services to more than 1,200 young people annually. YEP provides four distinct services: mentoring and youth advocacy (YEP Mentors), adult education and high school equivalency preparation (YEP Educates), employment readiness (YEP Works), and out-of-school time programming (YEP Enriches). These programs have been developed in response to unmet community needs and are aligned with YEP’s core purpose, which is to empower young people to improve their lives and the lives of others.
YEP Works: YEP Works operates three youth-run businesses including a bike shop, thrift store, and graphic design agency. These businesses provide youth, ages 16 to 24, with valuable employment readiness training. Participants earn stipends while gaining real-world experience in customer service, bicycle repair, and creative digital media production. YEP’s Employment Services Coordinator assists youth in developing career paths and connecting them to employment opportunities. In 2019, 166 students participated in YEP Works and the businesses generated a gross income of $220,971. 98% of YEP Works graduates demonstrated a gain in life skills necessary for successful employment. 88% of YEP Works graduates transitioned into post-secondary education, externships, or formal employment.
YEP Educates: YEP operates the largest adult education program in Greater New Orleans focusing on providing high school equivalency test preparation and adult basic education instruction to out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24. In 2019, YEP Educates served a total of 640 adult learners and 52 individuals earned their high school equivalency diploma. 93% of students demonstrated at least one grade level gain.
YEP Mentors: YEP’s community-based mentoring services connect youth, ages 8 to 21, with trained adult mentors on staff at YEP, known as Youth Advocates. Youth are referred by the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, the Orleans Parish and St. Charles Parish Families in Need of Services (FINS) Programs, and various community partner organizations. In their 2019 fiscal year, YEP Mentors served 175 youth and staff made 7,812 contacts with youth. 92% of YEP Mentors participants said the knowledge and skills they gained in the program would help them avoid crime and violence in the community.
YEP Enriches: Many of YEP’s youngest program participants live in Central City New Orleans, a neighborhood with violent crime rates twice that of New Orleans as a whole and a poverty rate that is 20% greater than citywide. YEP’s After-school and Summer Camp programs play a key role in keeping nearly 200 youth, ages 7 to 18, on track academically, while also keeping them safe during out-of-school time year-round. In 2015, YEP began a partnership with Eluna Network to establish Camp Mariposa, a national addiction prevention and mentoring program offered free of charge to children ages 9 to 12. In 2019, YEP Enriches served 293 youth. 92% of YEP Enriches participants said the program helped them to have hope for a positive future.
How you can support YEP
The most efficient and effective way to support YEP is by making a donation (either by mailing a check or making a donation online). They’re also accepting donations of the supplies listed below for care packages. (Donations can be dropped off at their thrift store at 1626 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, NOLA, 70113 between the hours of 10 and 1, Monday-Friday.)
Personal hygiene supplies
Diapers (various sizes, newborn to toddler)
Household cleaning supplies
Bleach / household disinfectants
Headphones with a mic
AT&T prepaid cell phones OR mobile hotspots
School Supplies / At Home Activities
Legos (other building supplies)
Crayons / colored pencils / markers
Painting supplies (brushes, acrylic paint, inexpensive canvas boards, etc.)
General craft supplies or craft kits
Books / magazines / comics
3rd thru 12th-grade reading level material
Young adult fiction by authors of color is always a good idea
Bead and bracelet making kits
Teen / young adult coloring books
Footballs / basketballs
Gift Cards to Walmart, Rouses, Winn Dixie or local restaurants – $50-$100
If you’re interested in nominating an organization to be featured in our New Orleans Be the Change Spotlight, please email us at [email protected].