Established as a pilot program by Carole Macneil and Beth Krensky at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in 1991, the Empowerment Center of East County (formerly Project YES) sought to empower young people to use the arts as a vehicle for social change. Inspired by their experience, participating youth became the driving force in developing the pilot into a non-profit agency. In 1994, the organization relocated to Colorado, where it existed as a volunteer-run organization, leading after-school arts and service workshops in various schools and communities for several years. Recognizing the need for after-school and summer programming in East Boulder County, Project YES opened the Youth Center in 2000 and initiated the Lafayette Service-Learning Partnership program in 2001. In 2003, Project YES reintroduced its arts for social change workshop through the Art in the Community program. In response to the economic climate, the organization closed the youth center in 2010, though maintained its innovative arts-based, service-learning programs in the greater community.
The organization, which seeks to re-emerge as Lafayette’s predominant youth service agency, was renamed the Empowerment Center of East County in June 2016. Adhering to its founding mission, the organization remains committed to developing and delivering high quality youth empowerment programs in East Boulder County, ultimately playing a key role in cultivating local youth as engaged citizens and leaders.