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‘Step up and do something’: Teens at Youth Enrichment Services are leading the conversation about solutions to gun violence

A column of nine cursive names is taped to a pale wall in the Youth Enrichment Services office in East Liberty. These are the teens the organization has lost to gun violence in recent years, including its own members and their friends and relatives. The wall was designed by Matthew Steffy-Ross, a 17-year-old who joined Youth Enrichment Services [YES] in 2015 and, over the years, became a mentor to his peers. He had only just finished the wall when he was fatally shot in April during a party at an Airbnb, where another teen was killed and at least eight others were wounded. The students at YES are acutely aware of gun violence’s toll on Allegheny County — they’re grieving the losses of family, friends, classmates and neighbors who were caught in the crosshairs of shootings. This month, the organization released the “Reducing Gun Violence in Our Community: Teen Voices and Visions” report, which includes teens’ ideas for reducing gunfire across the county. The report is a culmination of the organization’s yearlong effort to train teens to heal from the trauma of gun violence and become activists promoting solutions to the crisis. 

“I do not want to go to another one of my kids’ funerals,” said YES Executive Director Dennis Jones. “I don’t. I just don’t. I can’t.”

To read the full news story on Public Source, click here>>

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JUNE 2021

COVID-19 Vaccines Available for YES Students and their Families

Gateway Health is partnering with Rite-Aid to run a Pfizer Vaccine Clinic for YES students and families. If you, or your anyone in your family is interested in receiving the vaccine, please complete this sign-up form to schedule your appointment. The form must be completed for each person receiving the vaccine. 


The clinic will be held on Thursday June 3, 2021 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. There will be a follow-up clinic 21 days after your receive your first dose. 


After you complete the sign-up form you will receive a consent form to the email you listed on the sign-up form. Please complete and sign the consent form and bring it with you to your appointment. 


Gateway Health

6033 Broad Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15206


JULY 2022

Gun Violence in Cities Like Pittsburgh Needs Local Solutions

The sheer amount of violence that our people and children have experienced in our four centuries on American soil fuels new cycles of violence. This current of violence has adapted with the times, but it has never left us. Gun violence tends to plague our communities' streets year-round, but the summer is historically when it peaks. Already in 2022, we’ve seen nearly 300 mass shootings in the United States. The Youth Violence Summit will be crucial to addressing this issue, and making sure young voices are heard. Local communities have to work together. Change comes from the people, the communities, from those directly impacted by the horrific loss caused by gun violence.

To read our Op-Ed in Teen Vogue by staffers Willie Knight and Jaquan Brockman, click here>>

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JULY 2022

Teen Summit on Violence Digs for Answers in Pittsburgh

Dozens of teenagers from Pittsburgh neighborhoods convened to address the recent wave of deadly gun violence that has claimed their peers. Youth Enrichment Services, a 30-year-old nonprofit organization, created the gathering to get to the root of violence and prepare the next generation of leaders. Founder Dr. Dennis Floyd Jones says their mission carries urgency. "We said to ourselves, we want to see these kids just get to the next birthday, if we can help every kid get to the birthdays that God planned for them and reach the greatness that they're all destined to," he said. 

To read the full news story on Pittsburgh's Action News 4, click here>>

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JULY 2022

Dozens of Teens Meet at Violence Prevention Summit

A group is bringing local youth together to promote violence prevention. Mount Ararat is the home of the first teen Public Safety and Violence Prevention Summit. It's a way for the youth of Pittsburgh to strategize with law enforcement professionals on how to prevent future violence and their friends from dying. Youth Enrichment Services hopes to carve out a safer future in the city. "The goal is always try to save lives, that's number one," said Mayor Ed Gainey. More than 100 teens gathered for the summit Friday, all sharing the all too familiar pain of the loss of a loved one gone too soon. "I had lost one of my closest friends, Khalil Logan, to gun violence," said Willy Knight. "As a teen that took me a long way and I'm still trying to work through that trauma today." 

To read the full news story on CBS Pittsburgh, click here>>

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JULY 2022

Family, friends of Easter mass shooting victim organize Teen Public Safety and Violence Summit

Family and friends of Matthew Steffy-Ross, one of the teens killed during the tragic Airbnb mass shooting, helped organize Friday’s Teen Public Safety and Violence Summit. More than 100 teens gathered to talk about how gun violence in Pittsburgh affected them. Guests in attendance said the event was about making sure more lives are not taken. “Matthew was God’s sunbeam in this world, he lit up the life of every single person that knew him,” said Bonnie McLain, Steffy-Ross’ great aunt. Friday’s event was hosted by the Youth Enrichment Services program, an organization that provides vulnerable teens with mentorship and educational services.

To read the full news story on WPXI, click here>>

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OCTOBER 13, 2020

YES Students are Informing the Science

In 2017, our youth partnered with the Allegheny County Health Department and University stakeholders to conduct a youth participatory action research project addressing lead exposure in Lincoln Lemington. This project remains the catalyst for the health equity and

environmental justice work in which our young people continue to engage and a model for other programs to follow. We felt this research could me meaningful for a larger audience and as a result decided to submit an article to the Journal of STEM Outreach detailing this project. We are excited to announce that the article has finally been accepted and will be able to reach that intended wider audience!


This article connects existing research on STEM education and the peer-teaching model to understand how such a model can be employed to teach youth who are not exposed to high-quality STEM education in their traditional learning environments through peer-based techniques. We are eager for others to delve into the model we used and understand the potential impact it can have, particularly on community-based participatory research with young people. 

To continue reading, please click here » 


YES Research Article Fills the Gap
YES' Spring 2020 Afterschool Matters Journal Publication
Oftentimes, it is not what is present, but what is missing, that matters most. YES’ Spring 2020 Afterschool Matters Journal Publication:  Transcend the Summer Slump: How to Attract and Retain Low-Income Students in Summer Learning Programs supports this claim and further demonstrates YES’ commitment to building an evidence based and connecting its programmatic efforts to research opportunities within the scholarship community. 

Research has elucidated why low-income students do not engage in summer learning programs, but few scholars have examined why young people do engage; even fewer have studied high school students. Because of this, YES undertook research on why low-income high school students invest in summer learning. YES engaged participants in examining the factors that first attracted and then sustained their participation. The recently published study found that the elements that attracted students to the program were not the same as those that sustained participation. The results suggest ways that program providers and policy makers can better serve the young people who need summer learning programs most.

To continue reading, please click here »

JULY 10, 2019

YES Partners with Whole Foods Market to Support Camp FEWI (Female Empowerment and Wellness Initiative)
Urban Elementary and Middle School Girls gather for Wellness, Sports and Fitness Program

Youth Enrichment Services (YES), a local non-profit focused on enrichment, education, and mentorship, was formed in 1994 to empower families to become their own best resource and to give inner-city youth a portrait of themselves as successful, empowered, and confident individuals.  The heart of YES is a spirit of mentorship that places students at its center and elicits them to tap into their most valuable connection: each other.  In doing so, YES peer mentors drive project curriculum, guide program focus, direct youth activities, and encourage peers.  


YES is putting its mentorship model to the test this summer by providing young girls from the Pittsburgh community an opportunity to engage in various sports alongside YES peer female mentors at Camp FEWI (Female Empowerment and Wellness Initiative). 

To continue reading, please click here »

MARCH 4, 2019

“Trib Total Media recognizes the power of the mentorship provided to young people in the Pittsburgh region by Youth Enrichment Services.”
— Jennifer Bertetto, Trib Total Media President and CEO
By Courier Editor

The New Pittsburgh Courier has learned that Youth Enrichment Services (YES), a nonprofit providing socially and economically at-risk youth the opportunity to achieve success through participation in mentorship, education and enrichment programs, has been named a 2019 Champion in Action in the category of Youth Leadership. The award, announced jointly by Citizens Bank, WPXI-TV, Trib Total Media and Pittsburgh Cares, includes $35,000 in unrestricted funding as well as promotional and volunteer support for the organization’s outstanding work, according to a release.

Youth Enrichment Services (YES) provides empowerment, experiential opportunities, academic enrichment and summer employment as positive pathways to future success. YES partners with local organizations to create synergy and generates transformative stories, national accolades and positive research outcomes. 

To continue reading, please click here »

East Liberty nonprofit Youth Enrichment Services Named 2019 Champion in Action

AUGUST 16, 2018

Pittsburgh-area students tackle community challenges in Learn and Earn Program
“The goal is to help young people develop a spirit of advocacy, awareness and action.”  
— Denise Jones, Program Director at YES.
By Jamie Martines

Martell Reese wants to change the world.


And he's starting in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood.


Reese, 14, of East Hills, spent the past six weeks examining the factors that contribute to crime in Homewood. Along with three teammates, he surveyed over 40 Homewood residents in an effort to highlight the factors community members think would help to improve public safety.


"It shows that people do care about their community," Reese said. "And maybe they can change the world with us.

To continue reading, please click here »

APRIL 7, 2018

YES recognized as a Champion of Learning
“At the Consortium we often talk about the importance of hope and the need for every one of our kids to believe they have a wonderful future in store for them.”  
— Mary Kay Babyak, Executive Directors.
By Patricia Sheridan

As one of several finalists, YES received the Champions of Learning Community Award for its two-decades of community outreach. YES was especially honored for creating unique enrichment opportunities that transcend the classroom and that empower youth to redefine, rewrite, and reaffirm their own livelihoods and embrace their natural role as social agents of change in their respective communities. 

For more information about the award from the Consortium for Public Education, please click here ».

JANUARY 4, 2018

YES Receives ACHD Lead Mini-Grant
YES received grant funds from the Allegheny County Health Department to conduct an education campaign on lead exposure and to continue lead investigative research in East End communities with youth researchers.
By Theresa Clift
The Allegheny County Health Department has awarded nearly $44,000 in grants to help 10 Pittsburgh-area organizations raise awarement about the risks of lead exposure. 

For more information on the award and grant from the Allegheny County Health Department, click here ».

OCTOBER 2, 2017

YES Students Join Allegheny Health Department Meeting
The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) facilitated an ideation session on lead exposure related communications. The goal of the meeting was to generate new and creative ways to communicate with the public about lead education and lead testing. YES students from the “Leading the Discussion on Lead” project were invited to participated in the meeting. 

AUGUST 17, 2017

Allegheny Front

Teens Earn and Learn While Education Their Neighbors About Lead Exposure

By Kara Holsopple

It’s a hot, sunny day in August, and high school students McKayla Dixon, Anesa Reed, and Keith Jamison are working their summer jobs. The three teenagers are pounding the pavement, walking up and down hills, with clipboards in hand, hoping to talk with residents in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood about their exposure

to lead.

To continue reading, please click here »

AUGUST 1, 2017

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Fighting Lead Exposure on the Home Front: Education, blood tests, water pipes and housing remediation.

By Jill Daly

Getting the word out about the dangers of lead, and how it threatens the health of young children and pregnant women, has taken to the streets this summer.

Pittsburgh YES Students spent a warm afternoon recently tracking customer traffic at two stores in Lincoln-Lemington as research for a lead education program designed and carried out by young people.

To continue reading, please click here »

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