On the corner of Holmes Avenue and Century Boulevard sits Youth Employment Solution (Y.E.S.) Inc.! A non-profit organization on a mission to bring solutions to families in the Los Angeles community. In 2008, James P. Smith founded Y.E.S. Inc.!, after the 1992 Uprising to provide high school drop outs and unemployed youth ages 16-24 with the opportunity to go down a different path.
“After 30 graduations of high school drop outs, young people today who have a high school diploma, construction training skills, leadership development skills, and life skills are successful alumni of Y.E.S having graduated from the Y.E.S. program,” said Smith.
“Over 400 young people are now employed and have families, cars, and houses are doing well because they passed through the Y.E.S. door.”
The organization was built on the moto, “we lift as we climb, working today to change somebody’s tomorrow.” Smith has continued to stand by his mission by implementing new programs like: Y.E.S. Youth Build, Y.E.S. Charter School, Y.E.S. Baby4Baby, Y.E.S. Dynamic Pro Marketing Program, Y.E.S. Work Experience, and the Y.E.S. Summer Work Program.
Additional resources offered through Y.E.S. include: Free 4 Lyfe Re-Entry program for ex-offenders, TAY (Transitional Age Youth Housing), charter school referrals, job training/ vocational, employment opportunities, mentoring and internships, supportive services, drug and alcohol case management, pre-apprenticeships, financial literacy, Write to Heal-PTSD, civic engagement, soft and hard skills mastery, high school preparation and scholarships for college students.
These programs were created over a span of 20 years with the help of a planning grant from Youth Build USA and a $1,000,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Prior to the creation of Y.E.S., Smith always had a passion for helping the community and youth. Smith who is from Bellevue, Maryland, moved to California and hit the ground running with a new position at Ability First where he held a directorship position.
While there, he put on fundraisers with community leaders and support groups to raise funds for a therapeutic swimming pool at 80th and Crenshaw which still exists today. Later, Smith began a new positon as a legislative assistant for Diane Watson during her time as state senator. However, Smith’s proudest achievement came when Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to the Nickerson Gardens Community Service Center. Smith was given a million dollar grant to put in place a gang intervention prevention and recreational program for the children who lived in Nickerson Gardens.
“I provided leadership in working for the children and the families in Nickerson Gardens so that the young people residing in the housing project could have an alternative on weekends that would allow them to get out of the community and go places like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm…,” said Smith.
“Any of those activities that would allow young people to have fun and appreciate growing up in the projects without being recruited in a gang, selling drugs, or going to jail.”
Smith worked on that project from 1989- 1993 when he started Y.E.S. All of the experience and knowledge Smith gained from his previous jobs allowed him to successfully run the organization.
As far as future goals are concerned, Y.E.S. plans to standby its mission of uplifting families in the community. Currently, the organization is in the process of doing is developing the Y.E.S. app, a dynamic pay card that will allow app users to shop at over 200 stores, receive rebates and give back to Y.E.S. all at the same time. The organization also plans to host a “Lift as We Climb” fundraiser and awards dinner to honor their clients and people who are making improvements in their lives. Finally, the organization plans to host a mental health day focusing on suicide prevention early this month.
“All of our alumni have multiple things in common,” said Smith. “Some have college degrees, some are teaching in college. Some are teaching construction skills in other programs, some are in the military and some are in businesses of their own. But the great thing about it is that they are all doing great work in their personal lives, their families and the community and I feel pretty good about that. If they hadn’t of passed through the Y.E.S. door, no telling where they would be today.”
Every other Thursday, the organization provides local families with bags of free food, diapers and other baby items through their partnership with the Sam Simon Foundation and the city. For more information on Y.E.S. and any of their resources please contact their office at (323) 553-9490 and email them at [email protected] You can also stop by their office at 1773 E. Century Blvd., L.A., CA 90002.