by Eileen O’Donnell
Small but mighty West Philadelphia nonprofit leads by example
YEAH Philly was founded in 2018 with a humble mission – to provide a safe space for teens in the afterschool hours. Since then, the organization has increased its budget, its programs, and its reach. As scholars, media, and city officials strive to understand and mitigate the rise in gun violence, YEAH Philly is consistently in the conversation.
Entrenched issues like gun violence and generational poverty loom across neighborhoods and cities, often running in parallel. While the causes and outcomes are the same, how they are treated happens on a hyper-local level. Conflict resolution strategies and other services need to be tailored to age and geography.
Everything about YEAH Philly is genuine and intentional.
“YEAH Philly provides hangout spaces and focuses on community investment, economic opportunities, and culturally relevant services that elevate the experience of young Black people and reduce barriers, while empowering them to advocate for their needs and push back against systems that cause direct harm and oppression.” – Kendra Van de Water, Executive Director
The organization has become a hub and a connector of services to teens and young adults in the community. Foremost on the group’s mind is how to reduce the rise of gun violence, especially among teens.
Its programs include educational workshops dedicated to addressing real-world needs, like how to apply for benefits or assistance. Teens who come to YEAH Philly bring their worries with them to 5257 Walton Ave. It’s a place built on trust and mutual respect, where teens can work through issues and conflicts as counselors teach them effective coping and mediation skills.
While YEAH Philly is dedicated to serving teens and young adults in West and Southwest Philadelphia, they recognize the importance of offering opportunities to the community at-large. YEAH Philly hosts a regular community legal clinic for Philadelphia residents of any age. Attendees can meet with a lawyer to review their criminal case, seek advice, or see if they qualify for expungement.
YEAH Philly’s crown jewel is its conflict resolution and peer mediation program. Teens and young adults aged 16 to 24 attend a paid, two-day training. Using real-world, relevant scenarios, the attendees learn to identify conflict, improve problem-solving and communication skills, and practice peer mediation. Each participant receives a certificate and a stipend – and encouragement to bring forth the lessons to mediate conflict. The program is offered every other month.
By creating a safe space during those critical afterschool hours, YEAH Philly has become a mainstay in the neighborhood and a model for similar organizations. Investment at the community level – from funders and through contracts that align with YEAH Philly’s mission – means that they can continue to offer impactful programming and grow to meet future challenges.
YEAH Philly latest news:
- A mural is being put on our building this summer in partnership with Mural Arts.
- Our community grocery store renovations will be completed by September where we can increase the amount of free groceries we give to our communities.
- With a staff of 5, we are currently looking to hire 5 more staff
YEAH Philly by the numbers:
- In the past year, YEAH Philly has worked with over 400 teens and young adults impacted by violence in the West and Southwest neighborhoods.
- Right now, YEAH Philly has:
- 56 young people in the violent crime initiative
- 49 young people in the skills and employment program
- trained over 120 young people in conflict resolution and peer mediation
- provided $146,000 in mutual aid funds for community members to pay bills, restore licenses, etc.
YEAH Philly welcomes volunteers and donations. Contact Executive Director Kendra Van de Water if interested.