This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, February 2022

Youth Action Project (YAP) was launched in 1998 to create systems and programming that are led by youth voices. The organization creates opportunities for youth to develop new skills and habits that help them along the path to economic and social success. The organization works with over 1,500 young people annually through three major programs.

Young Scholars works with high school students in San Bernardino city and Rialto Unified School District. Afterschool programming pairs college students and recent college graduates with high-school students to provide mentorship, academic coaching and enrichment activities. Through the program, students identify their interests and strengths and build a path to future success. College-aged peers, who are often pursuing careers in teaching or social services, gain work experience while inspiring and guiding younger peers.

YAP recognizes that a lack of education and experience often hinders young people from pursuing careers and finding a well-paying job. Young Workers provides out-of-school opportunities to gain the skills and experience to enhance access to jobs with sustainable wages. The program provides case management that connects young people with work-readiness training, educational assistance and paid work experience. Alumni have secured jobs at nonprofits, government agencies, corporation and have also launched their own businesses.

“Our young people are amazing,” YAP’s co-founder and Executive Director Tremaine Mitchell said. “I am always enamored with the innovation, creativity and dedication that they have. Sometimes my job is just to get out of the way and let them lead me.”

YAP considers the overall needs of youth struggling to succeed and works with nonprofit partners to help them face the challenges. In addition to paid work experience, the organization helps with clothing, transportation and resources for housing if they are an obstacle.

For example, when YAP discovered that one of their volunteers, who had a bachelor’s degree, was living in her car with her children, they connected her with resources. A partner nonprofit organization assisted her with housing and hired her on staff. YAP was then able to secure a scholarship for her to continue her education and graduate with her master’s degree. Today, she stays connected with YAP and wants to help other youth overcome their challenges.

YAP’s third major program, Young Leaders Inc (YLinc), provides hands-on training in community outreach and digital marketing. YLinc is the organization’s issues advocacy and communication firm, supporting civic initiatives. Youth can receive free training in web design, social media, podcasting, and many other marketing skills.

Recently, YAP received a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. While the organization has always focused on direct service, this grant will give YAP the foundation to enter the world of advocacy and create systemic change. Mitchell envisions working toward creating a future where students’ needs are met and organizations like YAP are not needed.

YAP depends on donations and grants to provide a full suite of services and welcomes donations. There is also a need for professionals interested in being guest speakers, mentors and offering job shadow opportunities. The organization is also always screening for additions to its board of directors.

YAP encourages the community to refer young people to their programming. Regardless of their starting point, YAP strives to match youth with a coach or mentor who will guide them through the journey to achieve economic sustainability.

“We meet youth wherever they are,” Mitchell said. “Whether it’s a high school student or a college grad, we put them on the path to goal attainment. I’m excited to see what this next generation of leaders is going to accomplish.”

More information: https://youthactionproject.org/ or (909) 381-1405

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