In July 2004, twenty individuals dedicated to uplifting the lives of youth gathered in Lake Tahoe, California to participate in the first Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) teacher-training program in the United States. As a result of this training, the YES! program walaunched as a small youth community development initiative, with programs taking place during school and summer vacation.
The YES! for Schools program began to engage with schools in the fall of 2005. In Los Angeles, New York and Chicago YES! was offered as an extra-curricular activity both in school and after school. These programs were successful, with students reporting increased mental focus, improved academic performance, greater ability to manage anger and emotions, improved relationships with their teachers, parents and peers, improved sleep and a host of other benefits.
The YES! program continued to grow from 2005 through 2008. In 2007 the YES! course was offered in St. Theresa Point High School, Manitoba, Canada, in an effort to help youth deal with gang-related violence and alcohol and drug abuse.
Addressing a multitude of issues ranging from to high levels of youth suicide to gang violence, substance abuse and malnutrition to school dropout, and lack of access to basic infrastructure, the program assisted in replacing cycles of abuse and trauma with opportunity, peace, stress relief and an overall improvement in the lives of the youth of this Canadian First Nations community.
In October 2008 the program was conducted in George Harvey Collegiate in Toronto.
At the close of the 2008-2009 school year, 1,682 students had participated in YES! all over North America. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, our numbers increased to 5,986 students in 36 schools. In Canada YES! has been offered across the country in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Vancouver. During the 2010-2011 school year, we taught 12,845 students in 36 schools. Today we have reached over 40,000 students across North America.
As a result of the great success and rapid growth of the YES! program, the leadership of IAHV inquired into how to create a sustainable, scalable impact on the lives of youth. In response to this question, IAHV conducted its first YES! teacher-training program for public and private school teachers in July 2011. Additionally, IAHV developed a student mentor and leadership program that builds on the life-skills and leadership skills learned in YES!
In the summer of 2013 a Teacher training program and a student mentor and leadership program was conducted in Quebec. A group of 45 individuals were trained as teachers, mentors and youth leaders to take this program to schools everywhere.
As YES! for Schools grows we continue to explore program development and partnerships to create a sustainable impact that uplifts the lives of youth.
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