YO! News

WINTER 2011-2012

Volunteers Mentor Youth During Supper Club

supper club

Baltimore’s first Chief Service Officer Vu Dang is partnering with the YO! PACT Evening Reporting Center staff members to create a mentoring Supper Clubon Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the YO! Center at 1510 W. Lafayette Avenue.

Several community leaders and representatives from local nonprofit organizations and businesses have accepted the invitation to share a meal with PACT participants. Sitting at the table together gives the volunteers and youth an opportunity to talk informally and candidly with one another. Youth are encouraged to ask questions of the volunteers. The hope is that these conversations will motivate PACT participants to make healthier choices to support their long-term career and life goals.

“I’ve been impressed that the Supper Club sessions are inspiring youth to take concrete action, as well as become more receptive to community resources. The young people are appreciating this opportunity to build their communication skills,” shared Jonathan Hamlet, supervisor of the YO! PACT Evening Reporting Center.

Tutors Making a Difference


YO! Baltimore is encouraging its students who need extra support with adult basic education, pre-GED or GED classes to take advantage of tutors provided by area universities. Tutors from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Morgan State University, and the University of Maryland (UM) graduate schools of law and medicine are supplementing what students are covering in the classroom with additional study time. The tutors work with individuals as well as small groups, serving as role models while helping students build knowledge and skills.

“We’re pleased to have college students from Hopkins and Morgan as well as graduate students from the University of Maryland tutor our tentative learners and help them become independent learners who can do the work on their own,” shared Latasha Jones-Tayree, literacy instructor at the YO! Westside Center.

These tutors are boosting youth development as well. The Morgan tutors have utilized written and visual arts activities to build social skills and self-esteem. The JHU and UM tutors have taken on health, fitness and flu season strategies to sustain wellness. UM Law tutors are working with participants on legal rights and criminal record expungement concerns.

YO! participants are also benefitting from these tutorial sessions by visiting area college campuses and, from time-to-time, sitting in on the college courses of their tutors, which help to pique their interest in post-secondary education.

Fall 2011

Seventy Young Adults Graduate from YO! Programs


Youth Opportunity (YO!) Baltimore hosted a graduation event for the 2011 class of 70 young adults. The keynote speaker was Selwyn Ray, vice president of public affairs and  community engagement for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Maryland Mentoring Partnership.

For the past 11 years, YO! Baltimore has been serving out-of-school youth and young adults by providing educational, personal development, and career preparation resources and activities. Graduates have overcome significant obstacles – such as being over-age for their grade level, dropping out of school, homelessness, teen pregnancy and substance abuse – to achieve academic and career preparation success.

The graduation took place at the Johns Hopkins University’s  Shriver Hall on the Homewood campus. Forty-one students  graduated from the Youth Opportunity Academy High School, which operates in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools, and 29 graduated from the YO! Baltimore Centers.

Student speaker Crystal Jones shared, “I challenge the graduating class of 2011 to continue to grow and change. We can use our gifts to bring positive change to the communities in which we live. I’ll leave you with this quote from Malcolm X, ‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it today!’  Class of 2011, continue to embrace change. And remember, change is always a gift.”

YO! Civic Justice Corps Program Starts in the Fall

The YO! Civic Justice Corps (CJC) is designed to build a bridge of reconciliation and collaboration between youth offenders, community leaders and residents. This innovative project is funded by the United States Department of Labor. The goal is to help participants receive the support they need to positively integrate into their communities and work to build an environment in which all residents can thrive.

Over a two-year period, the YO! CJC will serve 100 young adults, ages 18 to 24, who, over the past 12 months, have had some connection with the juvenile justice system, including diversion programs, alternative sentencing  programs, juvenile correctional facilities or local juvenile detention centers. This project will be hosted by the YO! Baltimore Westside Center. These projects will serve zip codes 21201, 21207, 21215, 21216, 21217, 21223, 21225 and 21229.

The YO! CJC will be a three-phase program in which youth will be engaged at least 32 hours each week. Phase one (two weeks — unwaged) will be devoted to recruitment, team building, assessments, mental health support and goal setting. Phase two (eight weeks — small  stipend) will include academic remediation, life skills and job readiness training. Phase three (22 weeks — waged at $7.25 per hour) will involve community service and work-based learning projects designed in collaboration with community leaders and residents. Participants will transition into career training,  unsubsidized job placement, military  services or post‐secondary education. The program will help participants to cultivate the habits of responsible citizenship. 

Summer 2011

YO! Academy Student Receives Award from MCEE

certificate presentation

Ceirra B. Tyson, a junior at the Youth Opportunity (YO!)  Academy, earned a certificate from the Maryland Council on Economic Education (MCEE) and the Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy during their annual awards program held on May 25, 2011 for her perfect score in the recently concluded National Financial Capability Challenge. The Challenge, which includes a voluntary online exam, was administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury and U.S. Department of Education. It is an awards program designed to help students learn to make smart decisions about earnings, spending, saving, investing, borrowing and other financial literacy skills. It challenges educators to teach the basics of personal finance to their students, and rewards students, educators and schools for their success. 

This year, a total of 84,372 students participated nationwide, of which 563 (.67 percent) got perfect scores. In Maryland, 2,955 students joined The Challenge and 19 obtained perfect scores. Ceirra is the only student in Baltimore City to be given recognition for The Challenge this year.

“I am grateful to my school for providing me with this kind of education. I believe that it is very important that every high school student learns the basics of personal finance. What I have learned will help me make smart choices concerning money and becoming financially secure,” Ceirra reported.

“We’re extremely proud of Ceirra and the other high achieving students of the YO! Academy,” shared Rhonda Alexander, program director.

The YO! Academy is an alternative Baltimore City Public High School operated in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development for students who are over-aged and under-credited.

The Maryland Food Bank Impacts Hunger at YO! Centers

There are thousands of people living below the poverty line who struggle with hunger daily. YO! Baltimore centers serve out-of-school youth, 16 to 22 years of age, the large majority of which are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. The Maryland Food Bank has been working with the YO! centers to provide back-up support for these vulnerable youth.