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About YES

YES Georgia / About YES

Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”(Nelson Mandela – social justice activist, political prisoner for 27 years and former President of South Africa)

Our Story

Mission

To develop and implement alternative education solutions, effective programs, and practical action strategies for disconnected youth and their families.

Youth Enhancement Services, Inc., (YES) was founded in 1990 to assess and address empowerment through education, self-esteem building, cultural relevancy, and workforce readiness of out-of-school, disconnected youth, ages 16 to 24. Our main goal is to permanently disrupt generational poverty through programs and services that offer sustainable self-sufficiency.

Since YES started our journey, we have worked with over 5,000 youth and counting in the Atlanta Metropolitan area as well as Augusta, Georgia. Over the past thirty years in 2020, many of our GED graduates have embraced our guidance and reached higher for post-secondary opportunities at local community and technical colleges, universities, workforce trainings and job placements.

Vision

Establish Youth Enhancement Services as an innovative, effective and sustainable empowerment service provider breaking cycles of generational poverty for out-of-school, disconnected youth and their families through pure community partnerships.

Core Values

  • YES empowers youth through self-awareness, educational attainment, workforce readiness skills, living-wage opportunities, and cultural enrichment.
  • YES encourages staff and students to excel in a collaborative workplace that promotes creativity & strengthens agency’s culture.
  • YES believes that responsibility and accountability are the key drivers for positive, permanent, and measurable results.
  • YES is committed to the ongoing evaluation of our work to improve organizational efficiency and program efficacy.

Goals

  • Upend generational childhood poverty through education and living-wage training opportunities designed to decrease negative behaviors, and disrupt the cradle-school-to prison pipeline of many disconnected youth.
  • Enhance and expand our comprehensive service model to best serve more children, youth, and their families.
  • Establish partnerships with other non-profits, churches, businesses and governmental agencies to promote and ensure successful outcomes.
  • Provide outcome data for all interventions.
  • Identify continuous and sustainable funding streams.

Founder and Executive Director

Lula M. Gilliam

I am a self-defined renegade change agent, an in-the-trenches social justice warrior fighting to upend generational childhood poverty. My entrance into the world was during the racist Jim Crow and Civil Rights Era at the Charity Hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi – the site of a famous Civil War battle.

I grew up on a graveled road, in dilapidated housing with no running water and outhouses (outdoor toilets), across a creek in Redwood, Mississippi. My family was required to work the lands that we lived on (sharecropping). Poisonous snakes and other dangerous creatures were constants in our everyday living. I often marvel at the fact that through all the challenges, barriers, and hardships, I have lived to tell my story!

My parents and the village of extended family members and friends taught and encouraged their children to acknowledge the love of GOD, power of family, education, a strong work ethic, and community as a passport to positively change our outcomes. One of my heroes growing up, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on my 11th birthday. Through that horrific incident, as well as a host of others, my destiny was shaped to serve those that are usually left behind and forgotten – poor children and youth – disproportionately minorities.

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After high school graduation, I left the South and headed for California with the promise and intention of seeking a better life. Two older siblings, Elve and Lillie, welcomed me into their homes. I later met Renee Toler, who would become my mentor and change my life forever. She told me that I was “UC Berkeley material,” and I believed her. I pursued undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where I worked my way through college. I have a dual degree in Mass Communications and Sociology from UC Berkeley.

By far, my greatest accomplishment and gift to the world is my daughter, Kai Williamson. I raised her as a single parent, and she is truly an amazing and accomplished young woman. By the time she was twenty years old, she had obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology. Today, she is a small business owner of an interior design firm, Studio 7 Design Group in Atlanta, Georgia. When I became too ill to continue at the helm of YES, Kai put her life on pause and stepped in as Executive Director for five years to ensure that essential programs and services continued for the young people YES serves until my health improved. Her belief system stems from her childhood experiences, which is that every child deserves a chance to succeed and should have the same opportunities that she was blessed to enjoy.

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YES Board of Directors

Jasmine Butler


Harry Norman Realty

Nigel Ferguson


Deloitte

Alex Formey


Neighborhood Restaurant Partners, LLC

A. Steven Hausler


Archer Western

Milton Kirby


Allied Logistics

Benjamin Quigley


The Home Depot

Fela Strickland Smith


Satori Interactive

Michael T. Sterling, Esq.


Dreyer & Sterling, LLC

Jeramy Studniski


Warehouse Cubed

Allyn Wall


Digital Glo Consulting

Anthony Watkins


LexisNexis Risk Solutions