YES’s mission is to inspire youth through outdoor experiences and leadership opportunities that build confidence and prepare them to summit life’s challenges.
1968 YES began with a simple premise: Give Youth a Chance. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his call to dream of possibilities, Richard Williams took his passion for skiing to Boston and founded YES, which was originally called the Youth Activities Commission.
1970 Operation Ski Lift is established and serves 500 youth from low-income families in its first year. The program is now known as Operation Snowsports.
1972 YES is incorporated as a 501c3 organization with the purpose of serving Boston’s young people. By the early 1970s, 1,000 youth were learning how to ski with YES every winter.
1975 YES expands to offer summer outdoor activities. Backpacking, canoeing, bicycling, and environmental education trips are held at the Cape Cod National Seashore and Swann Lodge in the Berkshires.
1985-1987 YES purchases and renovates a new headquarters located at 412 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. The building features a ski and bike rental shop (which can store 1,200 sets of equipment) and classroom space. Friends, alumni, and the board fundraise $500,000 for this major capital project.
1989 By the late 1980s, the Ski Industries of America and New England Ski Area Association have donated more than 40,000 lift tickets and lessons and tons of ski equipment to YES over 20 years.
1993 YES celebrates its 25th Anniversary! 50,000 youth have been served by this year. The backbone of YES is hundreds of caring volunteers who give one on one instruction.
1994 Snowboarding is added to YES’s winter programming
1997 A Harvard Business School study finds that “YES has created a highly cost-effective program which has a significant measurable positive impact on the lives of urban youth.”
2002 Mary Williams becomes Executive Director and continues Richard Williams’ legacy of helping youth.
2004 The Richard Williams Memorial Scholarship is established. The scholarship is awarded annually to college-bound YES teens who inspire others; embody the values of Richard Williams; and demonstrate leadership skills, academic promise, and financial need.
2007 YES Academy is established to support Boston middle and high school students. Focused on youth leadership development, programs include Junior Volunteers (now known as Leadership Corps), Career Exploration, and Girls Outdoor Adventure Leaders. College Prep is added in 2014.
2008 Mary Williams retires as Executive Director. Longtime youth development leader, Bryan Van Dorpe, becomes YES’s third Executive Director.
2010 YES is profiled in the Yawkey Foundation annual report for the organization’s successful transition from a founder-led organization to having a new Executive Director at the helm.
2011 YES holds its first Gala fundraiser. Over $100,000 is raised at the event.
2013 YES pilots the Youth Excel Through Tailored Instruction (YETTI) model as part of the Operation Snowsports program. In this model, youth participate in multiple days on the slopes, are taught by the same volunteer instructor, and learn with the same group of peers throughout the season.
2014 YES pilots its Cross Country Ski program in partnership with the Weston Ski Track and with financial support from the National Winter Sports Education Foundation.
2015 YES receives a $100,000 grant from The Cummings Foundation’s to support its YES Academy programs.
2016 YES develops a five-year Strategic Plan focused on diversity, program enrichment, and increased impact on young people.
2017 YES pilots a healthy eating initiative which gives 400 youth access to nutritious snacks and a healthy eating curriculum. The initiative is funded by a grant from Target.
2017 YES expands its Track & Field program to include a Winter Indoor Track & Field season in partnership with the Blackstone Community Center. This addition enables Track & Field to be offered year-round to youth.
2018 YES celebrates its 50th Anniversary! Click here to read an Oral History documenting YES’s 50-year legacy.
2019 YES expands its Operation SnowSports program. Funding from the Share Winter Foundation enables an expansion of the Cross Country Ski program. Funding from the Killington World Cup Foundation enables YES to launch a new ski program initiative to serve young people with disabilities in partnership with New England Disabled Sports (NEDS).
2020 As part of a year-long strategic planning process, YES reimagines its mission, vision, and values to reflect the evolution of the organization. YES’s updated mission statement is to inspire youth through outdoor experiences and leadership opportunities that build confidence and prepare them to summit life’s challenges. Our vision is to empower Boston youth to lead and to achieve their full potential. Our core values are Equity, Access & Affordability, Teamwork, Leadership Development, Volunteerism, Respect & Responsibility, and Safety.
2020 YES stays connected with young people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and offers impactful programming to Boston youth without interruption. This includes modified in-person programs to safely provide youth with outdoor experiences; creative virtual workouts and fun fitness challenges; and challenging virtual leadership development, college preparation, and career exploration programming for teens. Read more about YES’s program modifications and pandemic-related health and safety measures at yeskids.org/coronavirus
2021 From the very early days of our organization, YES has been committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. YES was founded in 1968 by an African American trailblazer, Richard Williams. We have a steadfast commitment to ensuring that Boston youth who have the least access and opportunity to the outdoors are our priority population. This year, YES took additional steps to deepen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization. One project within this work is a formal acknowledgment of the land that YES is occupying; the research and statement was a project of teens in the YES Leadership Corps program. Click here to read the full statement of land acknowledgment. Additionally, YES has Racial Equity Action Steps in place that help hold ourselves accountable to fostering a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive workplace and culture. It also serves to reinforce our founder’s goal to contribute to a more equity and just society for youth – a vision that still rings true today for all of us at YES.
2022 This year marked YES’s return to normal program operations and in-person events post-pandemic. During the Operation SnowSports season, group sizes were no longer reduced and trip locations were no longer restricted to only Massachusetts. (Interstate travel was not allowed during the height of the pandemic.) Overnight summer programming was no longer restricted and YES was able to resume overnights at Swann Lodge. Another highlight of 2022 was that YES held its first in-person Gala in three years and raised over $550,000 for YES programs. Thank you to our families, volunteers, supporters, partners, and staff for making 2022 a successful return to “normal” in a post-COVID world!