YES stands for Youth Engaged in Service. Its public schools are committed to improving disadvantage communities around Houston. YES Prep is a free, open-enrollment public school system serving 26-hundred students across five campuses. YES Prep founder Chris Barbic came to Houston through a program called Teach for America. He later taught at HISD schools on the east side. He says he saw a lot of his students not prepared for college, or a legitimate pathway to pursue more opportunities for the future.
"I just believed in the talent that was being wasted in the community, especially in the underserved communities where the access to quality public education just frankly doesn't exist."
That's what drove him to found the YES Prep school system ten years ago. Barbic says for the last eight years, one hundred percent of YES Prep's graduating seniors have been accepted into four year colleges and universities...like Rice, A&M, Texas, Harvard and Yale.
"When you look at a wait list with four thousand names on it, you just feel morally compelled to have to grow, to provide this opportunity to more people."
That opportunity is coming closer to reality as YES Prep took the wraps off a sign in front of what will be a new location in southwest Houston. On hand for the celebration, YES Prep alum and now teacher Eric Espinosa.
"Coming to YES, I definitely loved the atmosphere and the support that they gave the students everyday, and I just really missed that working for corporate America. I decided I might as well go back to my roots and start giving back to the community. And I couldn't be happier, now that I'm working, teaching in the exact same neighborhood that I actually grew up in."
The building that used to house medical offices is now being gutted to become YES Prep South and YES Prep West. Founder Chris Barbic says the two campuses will give some 260-sixth graders a more direct path to college.
"Of the one hundred smartest cities in America, Houston ranks 83rd, behind Dallas and Fort Worth and Austin. And this, combined with our tremendous wait list of over four thousand students are what's driving our growth."
YES Prep students on hand to celebrate the expansion included Rasheed. He says he loves math.
"Learning geometry, and like doing ratios and stuff."
Hernandez: "What's your name?"
Diamond Harrison: "My name is Diamond Harrison."
Hernandez: "What grade are you in?"
Harrison: "I'm in the 7th...this is my second year."
Hernandez: "What do you like about it?"
Harrison: "I like the teachers and the student support."
And support is what encourages YES Prep founder Barbic to be optimistic about the future.
"We're going to be seeking 34-million dollars over the next five years to complete this growth plan. The great news is that we've already have over half of those funds committed today."
The new campuses should be ready in the summer. More information on the YES Prep experience can be found at www.yesprep.org.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.