The Youth Excellence Project (YEP) is a program designed to empower teen boys who have endured significant life challenges to experience success, navigate life obstacles, and emerge as adults committed to the betterment of society. It was launched in 2014 by a group of volunteers who donate their time and energy and who are committed to promoting positive change in young people’s lives.

Throughout the year we participate in monthly camping trips that lead up to an extended day outdoor expedition that occurs in the summer. Past trips have included kayaking in and around sea caves in the Channel Islands National Park, backpacking around Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and a hybrid backpacking and canoeing trip in the beautiful Bigelow Mountains Preserve in Maine.

We also work together to positively impact our communities, with a particular focus on preventing violence and supporting individuals affected by violence. In this capacity, we have partnered with outside agencies to provide peer-led workshops to schools and youth groups, as well as developed media to raise public awareness of the effects of violence, promote healthy relationships, and advocate for victims in need of support . Given that many of our youths have been impacted by violence in their own lives, their messages are powerful.

Finally, across the year, the boys establish strong, healthy, and lasting relationships with positive adults and peers. Our expectation is that these connections can be sustained and serve to provide a valuable resource as these boys attain personal goals and find direction.

Nominate Youth

Who is eligible? Incoming youth are male, ages 13-15, who reside in Connecticut and who have faced significant life challenges but show signs of resiliency. Youth must demonstrate interest and investment in the program and commit to the majority of group activities. New cohorts are recruited in the fall of each year; however, youth who have previously participated may reapply to continue up to the age of 17.

What does it cost? YEP is entirely volunteer-run. Our adult mentors donate their time and effort to making this a meaningful experience for the youth. We work hard to acquire as much funding for programs as possible through small foundation grants and donations. This ultimately offsets a significant portion of actual costs. Tuition covers the remaining cost and this is kept as low as possible – typically this can be raised through youth-led fundraising. We do our best to accommodate the individual needs of youth and their families and do not want tuition to be a barrier in considering a youth’s participation. Tuition for the 2017-2018 cohort will be announced in the fall.

How do I nominate a youth for the program? To nominate a youth, please complete and submit the following form at this link: https://goo.gl/forms/GVKrcsbtl5XVPq8b2

Our Core Values


I will lend my hand and mind to those in need without expecting anything in return. I will demonstrate leadership to those who need guidance whether I place myself in that position or find myself there unexpectedly. I will do so for others regardless of age, color, gender, culture, or background. I am a valuable resource to others. I will continue to find ways to make meaningful contributions.


I will tolerate the small stressors in my life and persevere the big ones. The trauma, violence, loss, or adversity I’ve lived will not stop me – I will persist and learn from it. When I need help I will realize it and seek the support of others.  My strength will serve to inspire others who have experienced the same. I will do more than survive – I will thrive.


I will be honest with myself and others. Actions towards myself and others with be motivated by morality and good character. While no one is flawless, I will learn from my mistakes and grow from them. I can depend on myself. Others can depend on me.


I am excited about life and what it has to offer. I will seek out new ways of understanding myself and my place in this world. I will focus on my education. I will keep an open mind and embrace new opportunities. I will build on my strengths. I will be mindful of my weaknesses. My future is bright.

Become a YEP Sponsor

We are grateful to all of the individuals, organizations, and businesses that make it possible to implement a program like this. Your support means that we can continue doing this important work with youth who otherwise may not have these resources. Our success raising funds has a direct impact on the number of youth we can serve and the amount of programming we can do. If you are interested in supporting the Youth Excellence Project, there are a few different options. You can sponsor a youth by either making a personal donation via our GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/yep2017 (note that a small fee is retained by GoFundMe)  -or-  by arranging to send a check/money order directly to our office. A tax receipt will be provided. Alternatively, you can consider donating outdoor equipment and supplies (e.g., backpacks, hiking shoes, sleeping bags, other camping equipment, etc.). We thank you for your support!

Calendar of Events

We are in the process of developing our calendar for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018. We do plan to have an overnight cabin camping experience later in the Fall to welcome back any returning youth and orient incoming youth. Please check back for details. We are currently accepting nominations to fill our 2017-2018 cohort.