Mentoring Program


The Model

Bigs participate in a Unity lesson as part of a leadership workshop.

Bigs participate in a Unity lesson as part of a leadership workshop.

The YELLS Mentoring Program matches high school “Bigs” with elementary school “Littles.” Throughout the program, Bigs undergo interactive leadership workshops from staff and volunteers, then become the leaders of the workshops as they re-deliver them to Littles. Working together, Bigs and Littles design and implement youth-led service initiatives. The one-on-one bond of Bigs and Littles builds strong relationships and promotes an ethos of service and value for community.

Bigs and Littles both benefit from the mentoring relationship. Bigs find new opportunities to give back to the community, to change younger children’s lives, and to strengthen their leadership skills. Littles meet teenagers who help them develop confidence, character, and academic excellence. They learn to view service as “cool” as they work alongside their mentors and look forward to taking their places as the next generation of Bigs.

Youth-Led Service Initiatives

At YELLS, youth take full ownership of their service initiatives by exploring community needs, designing plans to address them, recruiting volunteers, drafting proposal letters, engaging partners, and mobilizing the community around their cause. Bigs even receive business cards for building partnerships and networking with community leaders. Youth have led community dinners, hosted “Franklin Fairs,” erected a Community Garden, and organized a symposium that found youth in productive conversation with law enforcement, the “Throwdown for Change.”


Bigs Ana, Bridget, Adia, and Natalia—the founders of the Community Garden—on the first planting day.

This year, our Bigs and Littles are working hard to execute challenging projects, including:

  • The fourth annual Franklin Fair on Saturday, April 16, which will bring neighbors together for fun, food, games, and community-building.
  • A Community Pot-Luck series beginning on Friday, February 5, which is designed to celebrate and build relationships between the many cultural groups represented on Franklin Gateway.
  • The YELLS Community Garden, which will be revitalized through an ongoing initiative to increase harvests and engage the community in garden maintenance.

The mentoring relationships between Bigs and Littles are at the heart of each of these initiatives.

Meet the Matches


From left top, clockwise: Big Vanesha and Little Dulce; Big Donte and Little Micah; Big Miguel and Little Luis; Big Stephanie and Little Alina; a Big and Little working in the Community Garden; Big Sedia and Little Tristan; Big Emanuel and Little Davion; Big Maryam and Little Maritza.


YELLS has been a medium where I can actively change a life, and actively manipulate my own life to be what I want it to be.
Ana, YELLS Big

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