What if We Made Room for Young People?

What If We Made Room for Young People? Rebuilding Community-Institution Trust Through Youth Participatory Action Research

By Denise Jones, February 2022

YES recently published a brief in the Connected Science Learning journal of the National Science Teaching Association. The brief reflects on young people’s involvement in youth participatory action research. At YES, young people work alongside stakeholders to rebuild community-institution trust within Pittsburgh Communities. Their efforts have elicited new partnerships, improved community health, and created innovative ways to center the unique voices of young people.

Too often, communities—particularly communities of color—are epicenters for university research. While it is true that these communities have deep insights and unique lived experiences from which we should all learn, research in these spaces is often transactional and harmful. When university experts come in seeking data alone, the community often has limited agency and opportunity for equitable partnership. Historically, these practices have created mistrust between community members and institutions.

Undoing years of institutional harm and historical misgivings are priorities of local community organizations who are imagining new and different ways to honor the unique contributions of communities of color. In doing so, they are dreaming up equitable participatory practices and design approaches, anchored on trust, to center the communities’ priorities and voices. These efforts, albeit necessary, are incomplete without young people. 

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YES Releases a New Article on its Motivational Mentoring Model
Motivation (Constructs) Made Simpler: Adapting Self-Determination Theory for Community-Based Youth Development Programs.
For Immediate Release:  May 2021

YES recently published an article in the Journal of Youth Development titled, Motivation (Constructs) Made Simpler: Adapting Self-Determination Theory for Community-Based Youth Development Programs.


Grounded in the motivation science literature, this paper captures YES’ model of cultivating students’ gradual internalization of motivational regulation by supporting their psychological needs of relatedness, competences, and autonomy. This article traces YES’ work over the last 27 years and provides a practical model for other youth organizations to adopt.

Growth through the Decade- 2010 - 2020 Y
YES Experiences Growth Through the Decade
Growth through the Decade: 2010 – 2020 YES Snapshot Report
For Immediate Release:  January 2021

As 2020 came to an end YES sought to find a way to effectively capture the accomplishments, challenges, and overall spirit of our last decade of work. Members of YES’ staff along with an intern from the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center created a report that illustrated the myriad aspects of YES that have defined the last ten years.


This report, “Growth through the Decade: 2010 – 2020 YES Snapshot Report”, serves to honor the legacy of YES while acknowledging the present moments we currently find ourselves in and preparing for the future. Similarly to every program and initiative YES takes on, the report is grounded in and driven by the voices of the youth we serve. As a result, the report is shaped around survey feedback, interviews, and informal conversations had with current YES youth and alumni. The common themes that arose time and again in these interactions are a testament to the lasting impact YES has on the youth it serves, even as these individuals enter adulthood. 


We are excited to share this snapshot of our work over the last decade and hope to use this moment to spring us into another decade of success.

Click here to download »


David Jones, chief human resources officer for Stanford Health Care, and his wife Leona have a candid conversation about her initial reluctance in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.


We at YES continue to be touched by Covid 19 and feel it is important to share information on the vaccine and its impact on our community. 


Image by CDC


Vaccine Hesitancy Is Growing in the Black Community, and this is a Valid Response to the Long History of Mistreatment by Medical Institutions.

By Rachel Jones, December 21, 2020

The recent announcement of two viable COVID-19 vaccine candidates has brought the close to a seemingly endless pandemic into view for many. However, a cultural temperature check on vaccine sentiment may challenge that hope. Recent studies have shown that only about half of Americans would get a coronavirus vaccine. In attempting to account for the other half, it’s easy to trace how arguments of personal freedom used to reject masks could give way to similar rejection of vaccines. The portrait of the anti-vaxxer and the anti-masker are almost identical, both hostile to science, bolstered by Facebook conspiracies, and likely named Karen. 

But that portrait of those who may fear a rushed vaccine leaves out an important group: Black Americans. Vaccine hesitancy is growing in the Black community, and it isn’t limited to just online conspiracy theorists. Black activists, public figures and elected officials have been among those voicing distrust for vaccines. 

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