A local group of young people has recently stepped up to address the gap between middle school and post-secondary education. Formed and created by former Washington & Lee High School graduates and some like-minded friends, the Y.E.S. (Youth Empowerment Services) of Westmoreland County, is trying to close the bridge between students and educational opportunities.
Founded in 2013 by Edward Reed, the non-profit organization was designed to cater to those students “who were lacking in regards to opportunities as it relates to post-secondary education.”
The mission of Y.E.S. is to bridge the gap between middle school and post-secondary education and to empower the youth of Westmoreland County through means of academic preparation and mentorship. Y.E.S. will be the stepping stone in our community by reaching out and embracing the next generation.
Y.E.S core values will include mentorship, where a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person; academic advancement by aligning school and youth program curricula so learning is supported in both contexts; and finally, moral values that establish the standards of good and evil, which govern an individual’s behavior and choices.
Five of the six executive board members are graduates of Washington & Lee High School and all six have completed post- secondary education requirements. They are a diverse group of individuals, with expertise in college admissions counseling, substance abuse counseling, violence prevention, workforce training and development, community outreach, governmental relations, diversity relations, and law enforcement.
The executive board consists of Edward Reed, executive director and co-chair; Julisa Hackett, co-chair of operations; Chad Lewis, vice-chair of program evaluation; Deanna Lavery, vice-chair of program evaluation; Dominique Clark, vice-chair of fundraising/treasurer and Kerry Payne, vice-chair of community outreach.
Additionally, six like-minded board members are Andrew Johnson, Shawnta Shelton, Larissa Johnson, Darshia Ashton, Elsie Smith and Attorney, Nick Smith.
They have already started influencing the youth of Westmoreland County by initiating an SAT sponsorship program that allowed two students from Washington and Lee High School to register for their SAT/ACT exams. Mr. Reed and Ms. Hackett recently talked to a group of students participating in the W&L College Rocks sessions. They spoke on the college application process and the importance of a good college essay.
The objectives for 2013-2014 are lofty, but doable for this group of young people. They include: establishing a positive and working relationship with the administration, faculty, staff and students; identifying what processes and/or programs are already in place that Y.E.S. can assist with and help; increasing awareness around the college preparation and college admissions process and creating a sense of urgency in our youth of today.
After meeting with school representatives, Y.E.S. is up and running in Westmoreland County. The group’s core values will enhance the work that is currently being done throughout the school system. Westmoreland County’s Schools are gaining a valuable new partner in education.