YES! stands for "Youth Experiencing Success"
Given their circumstances, many inner-city teens feel hopeless about their future. We seek to change this bleak view of life.
Our Rising Star program is built around these key behavioral imperatives:
My future can be different from what I see all around me
Turning my possibilities into realities is really up to me
Changing my future requires a firm commitment to my personal goals
I must ask for support when I need it, accept support when it's offered, and support others when I can.
Letting go of past hurts frees me to look ahead to my brighter future
Here are our Program Objectives
- Increase academic skills and performance
- Reduce self-defeating behaviors
- Increase self-esteem
- Raise graduation rates of inner-city schools
- Improve relationships with family, peers, and other adults
The Basics of Rising Star:
At-risk inner-city youth aged 13-18 volunteering to enroll are directed to look at their life today, what they want for their future, and what they must start to do now to bring this about. We require them to make three concurrent short-term promises for self-improvement in areas such as school performance, parental relations, and reduction of self-defeating behavior. These will be reviewed periodically, and renewed or revised over the one-year course of the program.
We pair each Rising Star youth with a trained adult volunteer we call a Committed Partner. Drawn from throughout the community, the Committed Partner becomes the "wall" around the youth's personal promises. For about a year, adult and teen will meet face-to-face for at least an 1-1/2 hours per week and on the 2nd Saturday of each month, communicate often by the social media, and attend periodic community service activities. Always before them is the question "What are you doing to keep your promises?"
We support all teens in moving toward earning a diploma or a G.E.D. certificate by offering tutoring by volunteers for two hours per week in a variety of basic subjects.
My Rising Star Record
Journal-writing on a regular basis has a proven ability to focus the author's attention on his or her usually unexamined and rarely expressed thoughts and feelings.
Rising Star participants, both youth and adult, are each given a loose-leaf notebook filled with guiding worksheets and suggestions. It's divided into sections dealing with the author's life history, promises for the future, things he or she likes and dislikes about himself, and what others say about him. Youth and adult look carefully at the merit of issues raised by these topics, and, based on the evidence, decide what to do to enhance or counter them.
Youth and adult work independently on their own Rising Star Records. While these Records are private, we encourage them to discuss together the thoughts and feelings that writing in the journal has stimulated. We believe this process will bring youth and mentor closer, while significantly forwarding the youth's progress on his commitments. It will form a permanent record both can look back upon to see how far they have progressed toward achieving their goals.The Youth Intensive
A unique element of the Rising Star program is the 4-Day Youth Intensive.
When finances permit, we take selected youth, who have demonstrated their commitment to themselves and the Rising Star program during their months of participation, on a four-day out-of-town adventure in growth. They examine where they are in their progress to maturity, engage in team-building and personal confidence exercises such as a ropes course, and practice an empowering procedure for dealing positively with their inevitable mistakes and broken commitments.
Research has shown that the whole process can make a profound change for the better in the teen's personality. Youth accepted into the Youth Intensive must agree to continue to actively participate in the Rising Star program for an additional year
During periodic group meetings and personal conferences we emphasize to the parents that much of what their child will get from participating in Rising Star depends their standing with and supporting their son or daughter keeping their commitments to self-improvement.
Cooperation with Other Organizations
We are continually exploring opportunities for meaningful cooperation with other organizations that, like us, are committed to bettering the lives and prospects of the at-risk youth of Atlanta.
One such partnership is with the Fulton County Juvenile Court. Since 1993, the Court has referred to us youth convicted of minor offenses as an alternative to adjudication. It's been found that most teens who participate in Rising Star do not reoffend.
Another Rising Star partnership site is at the Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy, a part of the Atlanta Public Schools system. There, 7th or 8th grade girls as a group meet with volunteer mentors from an Oglethorpe University sorority on Friday afternoons during the school year. They focus on how paying attention to YES!Atlanta's five cornerstones can have a positive impact on their lives and their future
The Bottom Line
Rising Star was created in 1990, and is delivered free to all participants.To date we have worked nearly 1,000 youth, and were named by President George H.W. Bush as America's 1,003rd "Point of Light". YES! stands for "Youth Experiencing Success." As the name implies, all of this activity is directed toward having the youth grow into fulfilled and contributing adult members of their community.
Read about Simeon in our Blog
LaMontae said this about Gordon, his Committed Partner: "He was very valuable to me. I was able to learn about colleges, how to complete a college application, find scholar-ships, and improve my writing skills. I was also helped with studying for the SAT and the ACT." LaMontae is now freshman at Georgia State University, the first of his family to go to college.
Kurtis and Darnell
Kurtis Bush is a 24-year-old student at Georgia State University. He finds much fulfillment in mentoring, calling it "an amazing experience".
Recalling that he was a bit nervous when entering the Rising Star program, Kurtis says that he and his Committed Partner Darnell have already learned much from each other during their six-month relationship, becoming like brothers. Both of them have grown as a result.
As Kurtis explains, "Darnell's youth and playfulness helps offset my somewhat reserved and stern personality and occasional tendency to procrastinate. I am inordinately proud of Darnell. He is really taking in what I am offering him and applying it to his life. He has dug deep to find ways to improve his grades and overall school performance. I consider us a team and look forward to many more accomplishments together."
"It's such a huge blessing to be able to make a difference in someone's life, and I want to thank Darnell for being such a blessing to me".
(Read more about this relationship on our Blog)
"...I liked being in Rising Star because they really encouraged me to do something with myself. I got into fights a lot - my commitment starting in the program was not to fight. And now I don't fight! I take responsibility and I walk away from it. What's different? I made a commitment not to fight. My Committed Partners and all YES!Atlanta people have supported me in keeping my promise."
Cherise with Committed Partners Julie Witt and Michael Halpern in 1990
Update 2014: Cherise has enrolled her two teenage daughters in Rising Star XIV