The mission of Youth Empowerment Zone (YEZ) is proactively reaching under-served, easily neglected, at-risk, urban youth, engage them in empowering activities and ideas, and provide them with resources for success. YEZ specializes in working with Columbia’s youth at greatest need, helping them obtain and retain employment, providing support and life skills training, and encouraging them to continue their education.
For almost ten years, YEZ programming has reflected the priorities of the Division of Youth Services envisioning a productive life for Missouri youth working with the family and the community to give them the ability to fulfill their needs in a socially responsible manner. YEZ emphasizes healthy, proactive living and instills the value of work, self-sufficiency, and healthy living in youth. YEZ works with children most at risk for incarceration, truancy, and drug use, helping them learn how to dream and discover a life outside of the world of poverty and crime. Our core program, job readiness training and mentoring (JRT) incorporates all of these elements. In addition, YEZ collaborates with other organizations to provide anger management training, GED classes, reentry services for transitional offenders, and support for job seekers.
In addition, YEZ is operated by an effective staff whom have completed a number of certifications and trainings that enhances YEZ’s ability to design and implement effective youth programming:
• Harlem Children’s Zone Practitioners Institute training on the design, development, implementation and evaluation of innovative highly effective youth programming.
• Certified youth anger management facilitation training from Anderson & Anderson.
• Certified Gang Prevention Specialists by the National Gang Crime Research Center. Training covered root causes of gang involvement, gangs and females, gangs and the Internet, gangs and organized crime, and history of the nation’s largest groups.
YEZ is frequently featured in local publications and was mentioned last year in the national publication, Time magazine, as a sister organization of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Geoffrey Canada, the Executive Director of Harlem Children’s Zone, was listed as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2011. According to Arnie Duncan, US Secretary of Education, the continuum services developed by the Harlem Children’s Zone (which YEZ is emulating) is the template for President Obama’s Promise Neighborhoods program. YEZ’s collaborative activities, constantly aimed at building skills and improving programs for kids, are focused not just locally and regionally, but also nationally. YEZ works with and develops innovative and high quality programming that is researched-based and has a record of success.