Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC)

The Youth Empowerment Leadership Community (YELC) aims to address the social and emotional consequences of poverty and the commonly concurrent absence of non-familial role models in the young people we serve.


Through twice-weekly meetings, overnight retreats, peer-group and one-on-one support, and hundreds of individual touch points between each YELC student and their “FAM” (Facilitator/Advocate/Mentor), our youth become members of a safe, dynamic community where they witness, practice and internalize the social emotional learning (SEL) skills necessary to achieve success and fulfillment in life.


Understanding the effects of poverty on the trajectory of a young person’s life—the increase in the likelihood that they will drop out of high school, become teen parents, and be exposed to violent crime and the criminal justice system—the YELC aims to be a place of reprieve, reflection, identity development and narrative shifting. We achieve this first, by creating the types of spaces where participants feel safe, heard, deeply accepted, and supported; and second, through developing each participant’s sense of who they are and their unique purpose and potential—which we call the “SONG.”


In addition to the profound gift that is the the protracted presence of a caring and committed adult and second “FAM-ily” made up of their YELC peers, are the countless moment-to-moment opportunities to practice vital social emotional learning (SEL) skills, or competencies. These SEL include: growth mindset, problem solving, interpersonal skills, academic behaviors, academic self efficacy and grit, and have been linked to success in academics and beyond.


  • Growth Mindset is the belief that intelligence is not fixed, but can grow through practice.
  • Problem Solving is the ability to identify and analyze a problem and find possible solutions.
  • Interpersonal Skills include the ability to be aware of, get along with and work well with other people; effective self-expression, listening and empathy.
  • Academic Self-Efficacy is the confidence that one can successfully execute the behaviors necessary to produce specific outcomes.
  • Academic Behaviors includes both self-regulated learning, like time management and study skills, and the ability to enlist social resources (help-seeking skills).


Our end objective is to see each YELC participant evolve into self-actualized young adults with a deep understanding and awareness of themselves and their unique perspective, inclinations and gifts.


Self-awareness involves the ability to recognize oneself as a unique individual, separate from one’s environment, peers and family, and is foundational to the capacity to develop and participate in authentic relationships. People who are self-aware have a clear perception of their feelings, motives, desires, strengths, weakness, beliefs and emotions.


To have self-esteem is to have confidence in one’s own abilities, and a healthy respect for self. It is shaped by your thoughts, feelings and relationships. People who believe they are worthy and whole do not need to look outside of themselves for validation and approval from others. Instead, they are free to live their truth and discover their unique potential.


Learning to be responsible—to plan ahead, to take proper precautions, to be strategic in preparing for and designing the future—is an important part of becoming a successful young adult. Learning to be responsible and to take responsibility both for one’s successes and for one’s failures is necessary to personal achievement in life.


To have integrity Is to be honest, sincere and ethical in one’s actions. People with integrity act in accordance with their beliefs, rather than in contradiction to them, and are thus able to feel confident in their achievements and in relationship to others.


Sense of Humor
Cultivating lightheartedness leads to more joy, fun, and fulfillment. Without a sense of humor, life is serious and difficult. Brining humor to challenges can create space that allows for movement and growth.


Successful relationships depend on both parties being willing to listen and appreciate the experience and feelings of the other. Without empathy, relationships are one sided and cannot thrive. Healthy relationships are the foundation of a fulfilling life, and empathy is therefore imperative in becoming one who can participate in relationships, both with friends, family, coworkers, and partners.


Focus is the ability to pay attention. When one is focused, distractions and challenges fall to the wayside and the achievement of goals becomes easier. People with focus avoid procrastination and navigate interruptions and are better able to move forward in their desires.