June 2, 2023
YESS begins its 35th year
Youth Education Summer Socialization set to begin June 5
2023 is a special year for YESS as we celebrate our 35th summer of Youth Education Summer Socialization. Like most AbilityPoint programs, YESS was born from the needs of our families and vision for what might be the perfect kids’ summer program. A mom brought the question to a former program director, and together they developed YESS. They then presented the idea to USD 259, the Park Department, Sedgwick County and the United Way and they all said Yes to YESS. In 1988 the program was launched at Stanley Elementary with future Super Intendent Winston Brooks serving as the first Principal.
“That is how YESS was born,” said Kevin Fish, executive director. “It literally was a parent asking why there wasn’t a summer program that could provide the educational support our kids need and the socialization and fun they want.”
Since then, an estimated 6,000 students have attended the summer program that helps students retain what they learned during the school year while developing improved communication and socialization skills. Throughout the summer, students ages 5-21 enjoy a ½ day of classroom setting education and a ½ day in the community. Fridays provide a full day of recreational fun.
USD 259 continues to be a major partner in making this program a success for our students providing teachers, paras, resources and our summer home. Stanley remained the home for YESS the first 20 years till remodeling relocated YESS to Horace Mann. From there we moved to Woodman Elementary and then Franklin Elementary where, again, remodeling moved us to Woodland Elementary School in 2022 and continues to be our home.
The Pandemic in 2020 reduced YESS to a single day event. As the world shut down, so did YESS for the safety of our students, but our staff creativity developed a color explosion event to still give our kids some YESS magic. YESS is still recovering from the Pandemic, like most programs. New number restrictions followed in 2021 for safety. School closures and limitations dried up the pipeline of volunteers. Scholarship funding from the United Way was redirected by their new educational focuses. Inflation has caused costs to rise, stretching already limited resources further.
But while we are down, we certainly are not out.
As we look forward to our 35th summer and years to come, the pandemic years will simply be a note in our history. So many amazing memories have filled our history with countless smiles, and endless laughter. First ever horseback rides at Burning Sage Ranch. The tree houses, zip lines, building Pod Racers, and shooting off rockets. Classrooms transformed by a theme each week and presentations to the program bring that theme to life. Moments like student Matt D skydiving during ‘Flight’ week or a six-mile Torch Run to Joyland for Olympics week.
Hundreds of events a summer over 35 years is literally thousands of amazing experiences, but when asked what they love the most about YESS…. Most every summer it is the staff and volunteers that the kids rave about. It is the relationships these amazing teachers, rec staff and volunteers develop that make these summers so special. They are also why so many families trust their kids with YESS.