Re-launched in 2001 with the support of Georgia Pacific and the National Black Arts Festival, as well as major funding from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Youth Empowerment Summer (YES) program is a peer-to-peer outreach program that connects with under-served Atlanta communities, and aims to create a positive environment where at-risk youth can learn valuable communication, life, and performance skills. The program currently focuses on four local communities where we feel our program can have a measurable impact.
YES serves two main purposes: 1) to teach young people valuable life skills and self-empowerment through the performing arts in a safe environment, and 2) to provide YEA members with summer employment in the arts, as well as developing leadership and teaching skills.
YES is a five-week program for the instructors and four weeks for the participants. During their first week, the instructors come together to brainstorm and develop theatrical games and exercises that will form the base of the curriculum for the summer. The team of 20-25 artists is then split into four groups. Those groups then select the specific games and exercises on which they will base their weeks of training. The four groups rotate through the four communities during the four-week program allowing us to expose the students in each community to the same material during the program. Through these workshops, the program teaches empowerment to many young people. The program also provides support for the issues tackled in our main stage productions, including AIDS, domestic violence and teen pregnancy. The summer program includes eight workshops in four weeks.