YELL! History

In 1999, Young Essence Ladies…Learning (YELL!) was created as a way for high school girls to help build their self-esteem by becoming peer mentors to middle school girls, and middle school girls would do the same for elementary girls in fifth grade. Although the idea was great, YELL was only realized on paper and never materalized at the high school and middle school. Shoann Ajayi-Figgs was part of the initial planning stage, helping come up with the concept and recruiting her friends in high school.

YELL! was registered with the National Mentor Partnership at Mentor.org in August 2003. While living in Atlanta, Georgia, founder JoAnn Ajayi-Scott was actively involved in a girls’ empowerment organization, Cool GIrls, Inc. as the middle school liaison, volunteer, and Cool Sister to one of the young ladies. And as mentors were referred to her, Ajayi-Scott submitted them to the organization.

In February 2005, under the direction of Ajayi-Scott, the first chartered YELL! program was founded at Gamble Rogers Middle School in St. Augustine, Florida. Rose Reese and several other teachers sponsored, while she served as the consultant. In her role, Ajayi-Scott coordinated mentees and mentors, and worked directly to recruit mentors with Women Celebration, an organization that promoted self-empowerment of all ladies in December 2005. She also moved back to Houston, Texas to remarry.

The second chartered YELL! program began in Houston in February 2006, and most of the young ladies were recruited from Alief Elsik High School. Over 10 girls participated in workshops and other planned activities until May 2006.

In January 2005, five trained mentors participated in group mentorship with girls through workshops, real-life experiences through field trips and job training for the summer. Additionally, YELL! mentees attended the first Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Building Careers Workshop and were able to attend “An Evening with Diana Ross” through Brilliant Lecture Series. With such opportunities as these, the girls flourished and enjoyed the experiences afforded them.

YELL! expanded to the Hastings Ninth Grade Center (HNGC) during the 2008-2009 school year; and with the support of principal Dr. Jacqueline Armwood, Teva Clark, Communities in Schools (CIS) program manager, collaborated with Ajayi-Scott in establishing a YELL! cohort to promote self-esteem through a weekly group mentoring session. As the program grew, Ta Shunda Joiner, an HNGC Classroom Learning Center (CLC) intervention teacher, was recruited to work directly with Gloria Lucas, YELL! program and mentor coordinator.

Through a collaboration with HNGC and the recruitment of support through Elsik High School’s Peer-Assisted Leadership (PAL), YELL! gained the support of the peer mentoring program. Mentors and mentees also participated in field trips, career programs, a Mother-Daughter Day, and a Mentor-Mentee Weekend.