YEP –Turning Energy into Positive Action  

by RIM Reporter Robin Hard

Charlotte Johnson’s passion and commitment to Community enCompass’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) elicited a standing ovation from Rotarians.  The YEP program teaches youth to master their natural skills and abilities by building self-confidence.  YEPs are youth leaders, ages 15-20, who are learning together and creating a better community through Leadership Development, Work Experience in Lawn Care, Home Rehab, Summer Camp, Academic Coaching, and Urban Farming. YEP’s build skills to prepare them for college and jobs through volunteerism, service projects, and the arts.

Johnson’s official job title is YEP coordinator; more appropriately, she is a one-woman army.  Her dedication and commitment to investing in the lives of the youth is a breath of fresh air.  She is a woman of action.  She shared how many of these youth live in poverty and struggle daily. The obstacles they must overcome and how these children succeed despite their circumstances speaks to the effectiveness of her approach and the YEP Program. She shared that her family lived in poverty. She taught her children to not let poverty define their capabilities, and she shares that wisdom with the YEP kids.

Johnson invests her time in YEP kids and speaks self-confidence into their lives. She believes that time is the most precious asset you can give youth. Johnson said, “If you build their self-esteem and connect them to their community, you can change their behavior, outlook, and attitude.”  In fact, her approach works so well, that 61% of YEP youth attend college. Impressive!

According to Johnson, left, the risk is too great not to get involved with youth. She witnesses teens from all socio-economic back-grounds experience loneliness.   “Poverty can be linked to depression,” she said, “which leads to homicide.  Wealth can be linked to depression which leads to suicide.” She asks, “What is the connection?” Her answer is loneliness. The youth feel like they are not a part of the community because they are not involved.  If we can connect youth to their communities, value their contributions, and build self-confidence, we will positively impact their future.

YEP youth meet every Wednesday after school at Community encompass. If you would like to share your knowledge, skills, and abilities to empower YEP youth to impact change and use their voice, contact Charlotte Johnson. The invitation is open.

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