How the Youth Empowerment Project Positively Impacts At-Risk Youth in Louisiana

Eric M. Craig

While many organizations make it their mission to empower the youth, this organization particularly focuses on helping underserved youth in Louisiana by providing opportunities for both soft-and hard-skill development.

What is YEP?
New Orleans-based Youth Empowerment Project helps young people through community-based education, mentoring, and employment readiness programs. Most notably, the organization empowers youth by assisting them in developing hard and soft skills, which include trades, interview tactics and interpersonal relationship management. YEP commits itself to developing respect, accountability, integrity, progress, and kindness.

Started in 2004, YEP assists the State of Louisiana by providing entry programs for at-risk youth. The organization utilizes community-based reintegration, mentoring, prevention and intervention, and a team of YEP youth advocates.

YEP has impacted a large range of age groups, with the average age being 22 years old. Roughly 70 percent of incoming YEP participants have an annual household income of under $10,000, and 72 percent of YEP’s adult education students report being unemployed when they arrive at YEP.

The organization has a series of programs including New Orleans Providing Literacy to All Youth (NOPLAY), which is an adult literacy program for out-of-school youth between the ages of 16 and 24; The Village, which is a self-contained class that provides necessary support for development; After school and summer camp enrichment programs; The Trafigura Work and Learn Center, a critical job training program for youth ages 16 to 24. At the Work and Lean Center, students work during a six-week training cycle in design works, thrift works, and bike works.

YEP Learning Exchange
While the organization had learned a lot from Louisiana’s youth, it had the opportunity to partner with a similar organization in Brazil.

Earlier this year, The International Youth Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting youth develop the leadership, technical, and life skills globally, chose YEP to participate in its initiative called (Re)Connecting Youth: Exchanging Global Lessons, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Part of the initiative funds a peer-to-peer learning exchange between YEP and its Brazilian youth employment organization counterpart, Rede Cidadã, located in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In the exchange, The YEP team spent July 10th to 14th learning from and sharing with Rede Cidadã.

While different, the two teams will be able to learn new ways to develop more robust youth employment programs.

“The team at Rede Cidadã put young people through soft skill training, but their approach is different than ours,” said Jerome Jupiter, Deputy Director of the Youth Empowerment Project.

“They teach soft skills through dance and interaction. They try to really build confidence in their group and hone the skills they really need to be successful.”

Jupiter and his team spent time with at-risk youth in Brazil, visiting a juvenile detention facility, interacting with advocates and at-risk youth, and learning metrics and tactics from Rede Cidadã’s re-entry program.

In return, leadership from Rede Cidadã, and staff from the International Youth Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will join YEP August 28th to 31st to resume the learning exchange.

“I’m looking forward to YEP highlighting our work for them, and keeping this relationship going,” Jupiter said. “We think a lot of metrics and evaluations are strong, and we want to share them with them and have them take away from the process.”

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