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Preventing Youth Violence: The Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) Program

Youth violence is a preventable public health problem. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is helping communities to implement prevention strategies that are based on the best available evidence. 

One example is the city of Flint, Michigan, which experiences high rates of poverty, unemployment, and violence.1  In 2013, the rate of murder or non-negligent, voluntary, manslaughter was 13.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, reflecting 57 deaths that year and representing the 5th highest rate for a metropolitan area in the country.2 To address youth violence in this community, the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health developed and implemented the Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) program as one component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent youth violence. The YES program engages middle school students in conceiving, planning, and carrying out community improvement projects in their local neighborhoods. The goal of the YES program is to empower youth to affect their communities in positive ways, and in turn modify the environmental conditions that contribute to youth violence. The program includes a 16-week after-school curriculum that focuses on developing leadership skills, community pride, program planning, and resource mobilization. Community projects implemented by YES participants include cleaning up neighborhoods, creating murals, planting community gardens, building playgrounds, and other initiatives chosen by the youth. YES integrates empowerment and ecological theories to create positive youth development and community change, resulting in peace promotion and violence prevention.3 The YES curriculum provides youth with the tools to become leaders among their peers and change their community, which can lead to reduced violence and crime in their neighborhoods.4

Studies evaluating the YES approach have shown the positive effect of the after-school program on youth. In the summers of 2005 and 2006, YES participants completed post-test surveys on a number of self-reported outcomes. YES participants were less likely to become victims of a crime in their neighborhoods, demonstrated better conflict avoidance and resolution skills, and spent less time watching TV or using a computer compared to youth not involved in the program.5

Additionally, in 2 of the 4 sites where YES was implemented, the incidence of crime was lower in the immediate buffer area surrounding the site after the YES project began. Crime incident data from June 2004 through December 2007 were used in the analyses, with June 2004 through March 2006 representing the time before implementation of YES neighborhood improvement projects, and April 2006 through December 2007 representing the time after implementation. For example, at the Rosa Parks Peace Park, the number of violent crimes committed against victims ages 25 or under dropped from 9 to 4 in the 100-meter buffer range after implementation of the YES neighborhood improvement project. In the 150-meter buffer range, the count of violent crimes dropped from 14 to 7, and in the 200-meter buffer range from 19 to 12.5

YES was originally developed and implemented as an after-school program in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan, and is currently being implemented in several communities nationwide, including cities participating in CDC’s Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) program.6 YES is also currently being tested in an NIH-funded, randomized controlled trial.7

In order to make YES accessible to communities everywhere, program developers collaborated with CDC staff to develop the YES Adaptation Guide. The guide was developed to assist organizations and communities in making decisions about selecting, implementing, and adapting the Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) program. The guide is available for download here:

For more information about:

4Swahn MH, Bossarte RM. The associations between victimization, feeling unsafe, and asthma episodes among US high-school students. Am J Public Health 2006;96(5):802–4.
5Reischl TM, Zimmerman MA, Morrel-Samuels S, Fanzen SP, Faulk M, Eisman, AB, Roberts E. Youth Empowerment Solutions for Violence Prevention. Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2011; 22(3):581–600.


Date Posted:
Organization Name: Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center
Program Name: 

Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES)

1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 Objective(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 overarching goal addressed: 
Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all.
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