a year-round educational employment program for underserved teenagers


YA teaches self efficacy through programs during non-school hours when youth are most susceptible to negative influences. YA is a year-round educational employment program for underserved teenagers in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Existing programming includes an eight-week Summer Program, an Academic Year Program, and after school tutoring. Students in our program take four classes daily: Life Skills, Art, Writing, and either Health, Civics, Speech or Financial Literacy. We pride ourselves on small class sizes, with a ratio of no more than 10 students to every teacher, thus developing close student-mentor relationships. Our proven curriculum in all areas of instruction was created by certified teachers with experience working with underserved youth.

Civics, Speech and Art incorporate the Project Based Learning method, through which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem or challenge. In Speech, we encourage research, knowledge exchange, and critical thinking. Through Art, students’ cognitive skills are developed through reasoning, perception, imagination, inventiveness and creativity.

Life Skills, Writing & Health classes provide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) based curriculum & social support. SEL is a process of developing students’ social-emotional competencies. In Life Skills, students learn cognitive coping and processing skills. Topics covered include anger management, crisis resolution, goal setting, and personal resilience. Through Writing, students are exposed to multiple approaches to solving real life problems, while building on their communication skills. In Health, Ambassadors develop awareness preventing future victimization, learn the benefits of healthy eating and active living, stress management, the dangers of drug use, how to give and receive peer support, and the importance of dental hygiene.

In addition, the Youth Ambassadors program is designed to be a “first job” experience, teaching Ambassadors workplace parameters and personal accountability. Through the receipt of a paycheck & our Financial Literacy class, Ambassadors learn personal banking skills, financial responsibility, budgeting, taxes, how to prevent identity theft/fraud, and the do’s and don’ts of credit and debt management.

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In YA, student education outcomes are strengthened through three intertwined paths designed to address the whole student: Academic training, Social Emotional Learning Competencies/Core skills training, and Social Support.

  • 96% of Ambassadors attend 85% or more of the 162 hours of meetings
  • 100% of Ambassadors in the academic year and summer sessions report feeling better equipped to enter the job market, and also report increased confidence in their direct skills due to participation in YA
  • 94% of all Ambassadors participate in mock interviews; 100% of Ambassadors complete or update their resumes with the help of a professional mentor/coach

“YA is like a home to me. It is a place where I can express myself both physically and emotionally. This place, these people, are a second family to me.”

“Youth Ambassadors means hope to me. Personally, YA has made me more confident. Now I am able to stand up for myself, make more friends, and grow as a person.”

“To me, Youth Ambassadors is an escape route. I can come here and leave the stress from school, my house, and just life in general. WIthout YA I would have been lost. It has helped me cope with my problems, find real jobs for the real world, and pay bills for my parents. Thank you YA for giving me a chance and not giving up on me when others did.”

“Youth Ambassadors means a life not spent behind bars; it means finally realizing a dream, it means being able to make art that means something. Besides taking valuable classes, my job as a Youth Ambassador is to teach the next generation by example.”

“Youth Ambassadors keeps me out of trouble. If it wasn’t for this job I would be hangin’ with my old crowd. My old crowd stays in a lot of trouble. My friends know the police officers’ names to the “t”. It is crazy. I got tired of getting whooped by my dad. I chose a different path.”

“All the teachers care about us and help with the goals you’re wanting to go for.”

“I like coming here because it’s a free and open space to let go of all my thoughts and not be judged. If you need that support and courage, YA is the most inspiration you could find from a group of people who care. You can be yourself and learn many different things about yourself.”

“You learn about yourself and the things you are capable of doing.”

“Youth Ambassadors goes beyond being a job. It’s making a difference, meeting people and building relationships. It’s sometimes being reintroduced to yourself in many different ways. Youth Ambassadors means being part of something amazing. We are truly at the center of our creativity and inspiration.”