Our Roots

Defining Needs-Based

YWP works with 250 youth in the course of the year. About 20 percent of these youth are experiencing housing instability, 25 percent are system-involved or recently emancipated, and at least half are experiencing financial hardship, food shortages, poor living conditions, poor health, and educational neglect, unemployment, family conflict, or neighborhood violence. Throughout DC, significant numbers of youth are living in poverty, unemployed, and graduating from our public education system unprepared for college or adult life. These challenges are getting in the way of academic progress as is clearly documented in standardized test scores, truancy rates, and youth engagement.




    YWP’s work is guided by a deep respect and love of the youth we work with, and a commitment to building youth power, ending oppression, and practicing adult-youth partnership. The innovation and power of our work comes from our willingness to embrace and document the details of youth oppression and then to identify and go after the people with the power to change those realities. As an organization who is also overambitious, underfunded, and dealing with entrenched bureaucracies, inadequate youth services, and dire conditions for the youth we work with – making progress has required sticking to our values, developing our own rules – and a whole lot of pluck.




      YWP is working toward a city where youth are engaged in the leadership and decision-making of the institutions and processes that affect their lives. YWP's internal vision and practice prepare young people to take on these roles.  Youth work side-by-side adults on our Board of Directors, staff, training team, and on agency working groups, contributing to the full range of organizational decisions.




        YWP is driven by results and tangible change in the lives of the youth we work with – and a responsibility to expand DC programs and policies to include the many thousands of youth with whom we don’t work. We are committed to assessing needs, designing responsive programs, utilizing evidenced-based models, creating and using best practices, and evaluating our work and impact on a weekly basis. YWP data collection and evaluation systems are organized into five tiers of outcomes: youth development (including peer educator development), youth leadership development, community impact-education and services (school-based health outcomes), and community impact-policy and advocacy. Our data collection and programming is guided by 20 development and impact goals.