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Presence Makes Perfect at YES


Students at Oasis Summer Camp (a YES program)

Ever wonder how to reach “those kids?”

You know, the ones who appear hard to crack, unteachable, stubborn?

Troubled students are only a negative problem if we make it that way and Barry Smith has turned a problem into a program – a program to be the soundboard for students to learn and let go.

Barry Smith didn’t know it at the time, but YES (Youth Empowerment Services) located on George Street, was in the making more than 20 years ago.

He mentored kids through faith-based programs in Central Jersey until a higher calling led him to the needs of New Brunswick’s youth.

“Nobody was building relationships with the kids,” he said reminiscing of the mid-1990’s and the tutoring programs that were available at the time.

Before he knew it, Barry was running a non-profit tutoring and mentoring program. Unfortunately, his son-in-law who was helping Barry with recreational aspects of the programs, passed away unexpectedly of a bacterial infection.

Barry and his son-in-law shared a passion for youth engagement, so this was a shock for the entire Smith family. However, Barry’s dedication to the program did not waiver.

Even with a small space on George Street, YES impacts hundreds of students through on-site and off-site educational and recreational activities.


Inside view of the central space at YES

YES enrolls students from grades 1st through 12th across five educational and recreational programs with the help of three staff members; Barry who is the only full-time staff member and two additional part-timers – one of which volunteers their time.

A team of 100 interns and volunteers assist the core staff with programming.

Students read 40 books in one year, practice math through project-based activities to keep learning fun and travel to theme parks and pools throughout the State to enjoy some bonding time with Barry and his staff.

“One time, we got rained out so I asked where the kids wanted to go and some of them had never been to a buffet before, so to a buffet we went,” Barry said. “I taught them how a buffet worked – going up multiple times and figuring out what they like and don’t like.”


Barry Smith, YES Founder and Executive Director

Barry’s YES program reaches into our kids’ lives beyond books. Sometimes, buffets, bowling trips and just being there to listen are enough to set students up for fulfilling futures.

To be a part of YES, visit http://www.youthempowerment.us/.