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A Lookback at Summer 2022

The people at YES have been busy as we are now, almost three weeks removed from our summer programming, and we are proud to say that this summer was a bigger success than we expected. We've been jam-packed with our symposiums since the beginning of August. Students were given the opportunity to present the research they had been working on over the summer.Following the symposiums, we had our D.C. trip and Kennywood end-of-summer incentives for the students, and then we celebrated our end-of-year celebration with the staff, students, and their families at Highland Park. There was food on the grill, music, and a variety of outdoor activities. We also took the time to recognize students' achievements with certificates, which they received while picking up their final checks at the office.

Looking back on our annual summer research symposium, the students at YES made history this year as the first group of students who were able to continue our annual summer research projects for the students post-pandemic. The symposium allows students to use their creativity by conducting and participating in their own meaningful research with the help of our scholarly staff members and interns, in which they navigate a problem within their communities and create a solution to that problem. Some students are able to continue their studies in college, others take advantage of this opportunity to conduct research in an area of interest to them, and almost everyone can use this research or parts of it as a future assignment as they progress through their educational careers. This research is no easy feat seeing as students are in the library every Friday throughout the summer working on their research, and the students were dedicated to completing their research as they worked late hours up to 12 a.m. during the week leading up to the symposium adding their finishing touches. Our last symposium was about three summers ago in 2019, and it has been difficult to continue this opportunity for students to engage in their research in recent years due to covid regulations that forced our summer program to be strictly remote.

To no one's surprise, the students were successful in their efforts to conduct meaningful research across titles such as Racial Gender and Bias, by Sarah Nervais, Takar Pack, and Braliah Jernigan, in which they investigated access to Black Healthcare Physicians, linking their work to larger issues of bias in the United States, and Inflation and Access, by Curits Holt, Ciaura West, and Nowell Howie, in which they investigated the impact of inflation on food access and how this impacted the low-income communities in which they reside in. All of our students were excellent representatives of the work done at YES, while presenting their projects at the East Liberty Library in front of family members, friends, YES stakeholders, and many more.

Now that the summer is over, the students have completed their Learn and Earn 2022 paid summer experience. This summer, we partnered with over 15 work sites across the city, including Humane Animal Rescue, Pittsburgh Community Television, 412 Exotics, Andy Warhol Museum, etc, to put money in the pockets of our youth. All of our worksite supervisors have nothing but positive things to say about the students, and students were able to take away not only a paycheck, but also experience in job fields such as retail, veterinarian, cosmetology and so on.

While our Advanced Summer Scholars were out gaining work experience, our Summer Scholars were attending workshops, creating resumes, and working with staff members like Ms. Anay and Ms. Jasmine to get prepared for the workforce. “I’m so proud of this year's group of Summer Scholars! We had the unique opportunity to have four interns from Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh this summer. Summer Scholars excelled in our employability preparation and had a wonderful time learning to dress for success. The group also grew in their academic skills with daily math puzzles and time built in for reading literacy. Summer Scholars left the summer experience prepared and excited for their 9th grade year!” said Ms. Jasmine, Manager of Academic and Mentoring Programming, and Teacher for the Summer Scholars.

We were able to provide the students with multiple workshops, and classes led by our interns throughout the summer teaching coding, nursing, nutrition, and black film studies, serving as an apprenticeship for the students and providing them with entry-level skills in the workforce. In addition to office tasks such as lunch preparation, staff support on field trips, and supervising students while they conduct research.

Reminiscing on our summer. While planning our summer programming, the YES staff has been working extremely hard. We overcame many obstacles along the way and came out on top in the end. On July 8th, 2022, we held our first Teen Public Safety and Violence Prevention Summit, honoring the loved ones we lost due to violence and creating a safe environment in the community for youth to engage in powerful, productive conversations with people in positions to make change in our communities. More information can be found in our previous newsletter.

I'd also like to take the time to recognize that there will be a few new faces as we begin to transition into the fall season. As many of you are aware, we had to say our proper goodbye to Fatima Koko, our Manager of Workforce and Post-Secondary Programming, and Olivia Kelly, our Office and Systems Administrator, who will be virtually with us while completing her master's degree at DePaul University but will not be present in the office. We also had the pleasure of working with all of the interns we had this summer, and we wish them all the best as they complete their post-secondary education.

While we bid them farewell, we will be welcoming some new faculty members. Jordan Last Name , who has been with us since mid-July, may be familiar to some of you. Jordan's primary role is that of a workforce development specialist, which entails assisting with any program, particularly pathway to access, voices to men, and academic enrichment programs, as well as any technical and content-specific work. He also acts as a voice for the young students as they navigate school, as well as a near male peer mentor who can serve as a role model for students pursuing postsecondary education. Jordan is a graduate of West Virginia University, where he was introduced to Doctor Jones in his sports management classes during his time at WVU. "The first thing I noticed about Jordan was his leadership skills, and when I heard his story, I knew he'd be a valuable asset to our team." Jordan aspires to use his knowledge and degree to give back to the community and empower youth by assisting them in achieving their goals.

Another new addition to the team is Kiah was recently hired as our new Office Administrator. She was originally introduced to us by Robert Morris University assistant professor and YES board member Don Seaton. We had the pleasure of working with her as an intern with us last year and made such an impression on all of us the moment she walked into the building, we knew she had to be on the team. She is bright, witty, mature, serious, and enjoyable to be around for both staff and students. Since then, she has made history by becoming the first full-time employee hired before receiving her degree at RMU in December 2022. She is now our office manager, project assistant, HR assistant, and supporting our financial team. She'll be the first face you see when you walk into our office, so if you ever get a chance to stop by , make sure to give her a warm YES welcome and introduce yourself!

We are currently wrapping up our summer programming and transitioning into our fall programming, where we will continue our efforts in teen violence prevention while simultaneously focusing on our core programming. Our goal for YES this fall is to serve as a student hub where students can connect with us and get set up in terms of academic enrichment, academic tutoring, wellness sessions, school and home visits, and overall student support. This will be accomplished through our college and career preparation programs, as well as by providing assistance to students beginning their post-secondary education. We will also continue to serve youth in our diversion and restorative programs throughout the fall, as well as our mentoring and wellness programs such as FeWi, Voices To Men, and teen peer mentoring.

Don't be a stranger to us here at YES and stay tuned for any updates on our fall programming via our website. Also stay in tuned to our socials where we’ll be posting updates as we progress.

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