YES: Youth Empowerment Solutions

A picture of one of the gardens created in a YES program.

Project Details


Youth Empowerment Solutions is an evidence-based positive youth development program that is based on the theory of youth empowerment and community engagement.

The goals of the YES program are to provide youth with opportunities for meaningful involvement in preventing youth violence and creating community change, enhance neighborhood organizations’ ability to engage youth in their activities, and change the social and physical environment to reduce and prevent violence (especially youth violence). The project involves youth in the process of changing community physical and social environments and includes three components: 1) youth empowerment activities; 2) neighborhood organization development; and 3) community development projects that involve youth and organizations working together. Youth empowerment activities include workshops for program planning, budgeting, implementation, and evaluation; opportunities to engage peers in community change efforts; developing ethnic identity and pride; and working with adults to achieve these goals.

YES Programs

  • YES for Peaceful Communities (2004 – 2009): The pilot YES program in Flint, Michigan which facilitated the development of the current YES curriculum
  • YES for Positive Youth Development (2010 – 2015): The YES curriculum is being used as the intervention for the Genesee County After School Study in partnership with Flint Community Schools and the Genesee County Intermediate School District
  • YES and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center (2010 – 2015): The YES curriculum has been adopted as one of the six MI-YVPC interventions and is implemented in partnership with Church Without Walls in Flint, Michigan
  • YES Adaptations for STRYVE (2013-2015): The YES curriculum is being disseminated and adapted in four STRYVE program communities nationwide.
  • YES for Healthy Relationships (2016-2020): The YES curriculum is adapted and used to promote positive youth development and reduce Teen Dating Violence (TDV). The research team is led by Wayne State University investigators, Drs. Poco Kernsmith and Joanne Smith-Darden.
  • YES-IDEAS (2020-2025): Youth Empowerment Solutions for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Appreciation and Solidarity (YES-IDEAS) is an adaptation of the YES program. The goal of YES-IDEAS is to empower youth to address racism and racial discrimination as a way to reduce violent behavior.

For more information about YES and implementing YES in your community visit our YES website.

Journal Articles

Stoddard, S. A., Hughesdon, K., Khan, A., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2020). Feasibility and acceptability of a future-oriented empowerment program to prevent substance use and school dropout among school-disengaged youth. Public Health Nursing (Boston, Mass.), 37(2), 251–261.
Morrel-Samuels, S., Rupp, L. A., Eisman, A. B., Miller, A. L., Stoddard, S. A., Franzen, S. P., Hutchison, P., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2018). Measuring the Implementation of Youth Empowerment Solutions. Health Promotion Practice, 19(4), 581–589.
Zimmerman, M. A., Eisman, A. B., Reischl, T. M., Morrel-Samuels, S., Stoddard, S., Miller, A. L., Hutchison, P., Franzen, S., & Rupp, L. (2018). Youth Empowerment Solutions: Evaluation of an After-School Program to Engage Middle School Students in Community Change. Health Education & Behavior: The Official Publication of the Society for Public Health Education, 45(1), 20–31.
Freire, K. E., Perkinson, L., Morrel-Samuels, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2015). Three Cs of Translating Evidence-Based Programs for Youth and Families to Practice Settings. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2015(149), 25–39.
Reischl, T. M., Zimmerman, M. A., Morrel-Samuels, S., Franzen, S. P., Faulk, M., Eisman, A. B., & Roberts, E. (2011). Youth empowerment solutions for violence prevention. Adolesc Med State Art Rev, 22(3), 581–600, xiii.
Zimmerman, M. A., Stewart, S. E., Morrel-Samuels, S., Franzen, S., & Reischl, T. M. (2011). Youth Empowerment Solutions for Peaceful Communities: Combining theory and practice in a community-level violence prevention curriculum. Health Promotion Practice, 12(3), 425–439.
Franzen, S., Morrel-Samuels, S., Reischl, T. M., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2009). Using process evaluation to strengthen intergenerational partnerships in the Youth Empowerment Solutions program. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 37(4), 289–301.


Eisman, A., Zimmerman, M. A., Kruger, D. J., Miller, A. L., Reischl, T. M., Franzen, S. P., & Morrel-Samuels, S. (2015, November 1). Psychological Empowerment Among Urban Youth: Measurement Model and Associations with Youth Outcomes. 2015 APHA Annual Meeting & Expo (Oct. 31 - Nov. 4, 2015).
Reischl, T. (2012, April 25). Youth Empowerment Solutions for Violence Prevention. Michigan State University Human Development Initiative Brown Bag Presentation.
Zimmerman, M. A. (2012). From Broken Windows to Busy Streets: Youth Empowerment Solutions. School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Reischl, T. M., Kaminski, J., Zimmerman, M. A., Kruger, D. J., Morrel-Samuels, S., Franzen, S., & Roberts, E. (2008, May). The challenges of empowering youth to mobilize community-level change and to evaluate the effects [Paper]. Annual Meeting of the Society for Prevention Research, San Francisco, CA.

Books/Book Chapters