The mission of the Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies (YES) program is to amplify through study and action a critical understanding of the role youth can play in social change in Philadelphia. The overall goals of the YES program are to contribute to making real community-based change in our local urban areas, especially the City of Philadelphia, and to develop "change-makers": individuals who have the skills and knowledge to contribute as citizens, including increasing educational and political access for themselves and others.
The Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies minor offers you the opportunity to work hands-on with youth in urban settings making real change with and alongside them.
Faculty with cross-disciplinary expertise in strength-based approaches to the challenges faced by urban communities and youth choose to teach with us.
The YES minor is for students in any college or major; look at our program details to see how the minor fits your course of study.
NEW! YES is now partnering with a dozen urban youth empowerment organizations and schools. Click here to find out more about the leading social change and positive youth development agencies with whom we work.
Coming to West Chester University, I was focused on figuring out how to succeed in my major. Shortly after that I became a heavily involved student. Once connecting with high school students that came to West Chester University for a tour I quickly became interested in the Youth Empowerment & Urban Studies minor. Not only did I have normal classes on campus, I had field placements at Youth United for Change and YES Philly. After attending both of these programs I later became a Communications & Marketing intern at the Philadelphia Youth Network. Now that I am a graduate of West Chester University, I work as a College and Career Ambassador for an AmeriCorps program at West Philadelphia High School. While sitting in on interviews employers also get excited to hear about my minor. I just want to thank the YES minor for all the experience and opportunities.
The best part of my time at West Chester was becoming a YES minor….I was awakened to my true calling in life, to work beside these youth and make incremental change in diverse communities. My personal statement inspired by this idea of concrete change in the urban streets of Philadelphia was one of the primary reasons for my acceptance into the MSW program.
I came to West Chester University with the vision of establishing the foundation I needed to help our inner city youth…. Now as a graduate of West Chester University with a minor in this amazing program, the opportunities I find relevant to my field of work are endless.
This is a minor that you will appreciate having on your transcript. It teaches you the struggles within education and the challenges urban communities experience. As you go through the required courses you will become an ally and an advocate for urban youth and education. You will gain skills such as leadership, patience, dedication, and reliability—all skills needed to create compelling actions in the life of urban youth. This minor establishes life learning lessons and opens your eyes to diversity. YES allows you to have hands- on experience with urban youth by doing community projects with other organizations as well as create youth-led media. Throughout the minor you gain a full understanding of ideas such as oppression, marginalization, and the various “-isms” that impact urban youth. YES is a minor of dedication—if you are fully dedicated, the reward is priceless.
When I added the YES 300 course in the Spring Semester of my 5th year, I did it on a whim and to fill a requirement. Thank God I did. I sat in on that first class listening to the course requirements and realized that this minor was exactly what I had been looking for- a passion and a purpose rolled into one. It went so perfectly with my Women’s and Gender Studies minor that I immediately enrolled in this minor as well, and completed the two other courses in the following two semesters. The YES minor is consistently hands-on, a characteristic I have craved in my educational career. Not only did I gain so much professionally from the courses including time management, grant proposal writing and countless other skills, but on a personal level, the impact was indescribable.
Next thing you know, I was doing hands-on work in Philadelphia, visibly bettering my community. I loved the experiences the YES minor provided me. Cut to present day: As a recent graduate of the program, I have already seen the benefits of this minor. Right after graduation, I landed a community partnerships coordinator position at a k-8 school in North Philadelphia.
The program has set forth to change the dynamic of West Chester University but more importantly to give hope to youth that are already counted out by the system. I loved the hands on experience because it felt like I was able to actually use what I was learning and directly apply it to my life…By participating in this program I found out that I had unknown biases and that I at one point was an oppressor and have been oppressed in the past, and that I have a voice and it should be heard…The small classroom size really emphasizes the one-to-one connection. My cohort of classmates—we still are in contact today, which strengthens the mission statement of YES and still amazes me almost two years later, how close we are.
The YES Program at WCU definitely prepared me for all of the roles I play here at YouthBuild. The YES Program ...combined my passion with the needs of our inner-city communities, creating a real-life purpose for our involvement. In addition to the work I do here, I also have the amazing opportunity to build relationships with the students (ages 18-20) and watch them become the young professionals they couldn’t imagine themselves to be before. Cheers to loving my first adult job, all thanks to finding the YES Program.
For more information:
Dr. Hannah Ashley
YES Program Coordinator
110/109 Main Hall, West Chester University
West Chester PA 19383