Description & History

Mission:  In partnership with nature, YES nurtures leaders who champion the wellbeing of our community.

History:  In 1999 YES was founded to provide eye-opening enrichment opportunities to under resourced youth living in Richmond's flatlands. Due to challenging community conditions, both quality out-of-school-time programming and safe exposure to the outdoos were inaccessible for many children and their families. 



Family Camp: YES provides innovative family programming through annual Family Camps.  Through this program, YES brings 80-100 students and families from Richmond elementary schools - Peres and Verde  - to five Family Camps each year.  Prior to attending camp, YES staff works closely with after school staff, teachers, and administrators to recruit and register families and ensure they are informed and outfitted with proper gear. At Family Camp, adults and children participate in activities to promote cross-generational relationship building, peer-group relationship building, and connection with nature.

Summer Camp:  Each year, YES supports 300 low-income, at-risk youth ages 8-16 from over 30 public elementary, middle, and high schools to attend weeklong, overnight summer camps.  YES provides wrap-around support for students to not only attend, but to be fully supported in participating in the Summer Camp program. YES staff supports students and parents through school and community-based recruitment, camp registration, acting as liaisons with summer camps to orient both students and camp staff, and providing continuity activities for youth and parents throughout the year.  In addition, YES provides tuition assistance to address the economic challenge of participating in summer camp. YES asks qualifying families to pay only $30/child, or whatever they can afford.

Camp-to-Community (C2C): The C2C program is a leadership program for youth ages 14-17 who have participated in YES’ Summer Camp and Family Camp programming over several years. Each year, the C2C program provides guidance and support for up to 30 youth to serve as leaders through: 1) leadership roles as counselors-in-training at overnight summer camps, 2) mentorship and leadership roles at YES' weekend Family Camps and Day Outings, and 3) as interns, volunteers or paid staff placed at community agencies in Richmond that have an outdoor or environmental stewardship focus. Youth also participate in team outdoor activities and academic and career support activities.  Since its inception in 2010, YES has engaged 58 C2C youth who have provided over 800 hours of service to their community and spent 6,000 hours outdoors in a leadership capacity.

Wellness Navigators:  YES’ signature PeaceTalk non-defensive communication program has operated over six years and has been highly effective in engaging adult caregivers. While PeaceTalk programming has been effective, the strategic planning process highlighted the opportunity to further develop adult programming.  Over the past year YES has convened a group of 10 multi-cultural Wellness Ambassadors. As active participants in YES Family Camps and other YES and community events, Wellness Ambassadors have become advocates for change and healthy practices. Drawing on the success of the program, YES will continue to develop this strategy and incorporate PeaceTalk as a part of this larger and more comprehensive program including training, peer mentoring, and wellness education and advocacy. 

About the organization

Youth Enrichment Strategies (dba YES Nature to Neighborhoods)

Eric Aaholm
Executive Director
Cianna Walker
Admin and Volunteer Coordinator
Organization’s website: