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 nonprofit. In 1994, the organization relocated to Colorado, where it existed as a
volunteer-run agency, leading after-school arts and service workshops in various communities
for several years. Recognizing the need for after-school and summer programming in East
Boulder County, Project YES opened its youth center in Lafayette in 2000, initiated the
Lafayette Service-Learning Partnership in 2001, and reintroduced its Art in the Community
program in 2003. In response to the economic climate, the organization closed the youth center
in 2010, though maintained its innovative arts-based, service-learning programs in communities
throughout Boulder County.
To renew its commitment to Lafayette, the organization was refashioned and renamed
in June 2016. Since then, the Empowerment Center of East County or (EC)^2 has re-positioned
itself as Lafayette’s predominant youth services agency, providing local youth with structured
and sustained opportunities to tap their inherent capacities to create positive social change in
their own lives and in the greater community. Alongside other evidence-based strategies,
(EC)^2 continues to employ the arts and service-learning, which have proven effective when
fostering youth engagement and promoting youth voice.