YLF builds character among youth of our Nation’s Capital.
In 1952, a blind mother with vision took her child to Arlington National Cemetery.
The child fell in love with history and vowed to read a book a week for the rest of his life. In 1960, that child had kept his promise, graduating near the top of the first-ever desegregated class from Western High School. Lacking resources to attend college, a young Edward Smith began working in the mail room of the White House for President Johnson during the War on Poverty. His talent for writing became evident at this time and paved the way for his success as the first African-American tenured Professor of American University; the founder of that university’s Civil War Institute; a speech writer for President Carter; and a founder of The Heights School in Potomac, MD.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, Professor Smith collaborated with Opus Dei, an institution of the Catholic Church to develop social outreach programs called the Program for Academic and Leadership Skills (PALS) and the Tenley Achievement Program (TAP). PALS and TAP gave promising youth in Washington an opportunity to have a relationship with positive adult role models. They provided tutoring and mentoring on Saturday mornings and summers throughout the city. After nearly three decades of success, so many inner-city families were entrusting their children to TAP and PALS that Professor Smith saw the need for an organization which could directly serve the these families and communities.
Professor Smith co-founded YLF in 1997 to be able to better serve the community. Over the next two decades, 4,000 students attended YLF programs, and, more than 95% of their parents have a high satisfaction with their son or daughter’s involvement in PALS or TAP. PALS and TAP continues its partnership with Opus Dei. The programs are rooted in Catholic moral and social teaching and embrace students regardless of their religious, racial, ethnic, or familial status. In 2009 and 2017, YLF was named one of D.C.’s Best Small Charities by the Catalogue for Philanthropy. In 2015, it was selected for the Fair Chance Partnership. YLF celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2017. Today, our program serves 350 students annually in seven school partners across the city.
Professor Edward Smith speaks to a YLF group at Arlington National Cemetery.
Board of Directors
Gerard E. Mitchell
Stein, Mitchell, Beato & Missner LLP
Sherri Morgan-Johnson, R.N.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Keith S. Fimian
U.S. Inspect, LLC
Michael J. Barvick
Alexis Consulting, LLC
Jeremiah S. Buckley
Buckley Sandler LLP
DoD/VA Interagency Program
Butler Law and Consulting
Michael Cohen, M.D., Ph.D.
Lisa A. DiMonte
Palm Facility Services
(Ret.) Aerospace & Defense Consultant
Butzel Long Tighe Patton PLLC
Congressional Black Caucus
Internal Revenue Service
MidCap Financial, LLC
(Ret.) Jordan Coyne & Savits
Catholic University of America
(Ret.) McCarran Ferguson Captive Management Company
Ernst & Young
Janaiha joined the Youth Leadership Foundation in 2006 as a mentor for the PALS program. Previously, she provided direct services to students through the Children Defense Fund and managed youth workers through the America Reads program at the University of Maryland.A native Washingtonian from Ward 7, Janaiha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology from GWU, a Master's degree in School Psychology from the University of Maryland and a Certificate in Non-Profit Executive Management from Georgetown University.
Yajaira is a former attorney, homeschooling mom and teacher who believes that education involves forming the whole child, not just the mind but also encouraging the cultivation of good habits. She has taught elementary through high school students in a Co-Op environment using a Charlotte Mason Philosophy. Yajaira holds a Bachelor of Political Science in International Relations from West Chester University and a Juris Doctor from Temple University Law School.
Director of Donor Relations
In 2016, Amanda joined YLF as the PALS Director, inspired by a spirit of joy, excellence, and service in education. As the current Director of Donor Relations, she is passionate about developing relationships with YLF partners to best serve youth in DC. A graduate from Hillsdale College with a B.A. in English, she has worked with students at the elementary, middle, and high-school level. In addition, she has worked as a staff writer and journalist for newspapers such as the Toledo Free Press and the Washington Post Express.
Demetrius is an alumnus of YLF’s Tenley Achievement Program. Throughout high school and college he volunteered and worked for YLF in various positions every summer. Over eight summers he has worked as an office assistant, coach, mentor, teacher, and sports director. He holds an Associates Degree in Sociology.
In 2017, YLF successfully launched its Inaugural Spirit of Service Challenge for high school students and achieved record-breaking enrollment for school year programs. We have been named "One of the Best" Small Non-Profits in the Greater Washington Catalogue of Philanthropy.
1. YLF successfully launched its Inaugural Spirit of Service Challenge for high school students. The Spirit of Service Challenge is a yearlong commitment to becoming a better leader. The Challenge kicked off with our Summer Business Plan Competition. 28 students presented creative solutions to increase high school graduation rate in the District before a panel of C-Level judges at Howard University Law School.
2. YLF enrolled a record-breaking 168 students in SY 2016-7. In FY16, we launched clubs at four schools and served 98 students aged 7 to 14. In FY17, the number of students served has grown by 70% and breaks organizational records. We are pleased to continue strong partnerships in the Brookland, Columbia Heights, Congress Heights and Highland Park neighborhoods.
3. YLF students outperform peers across measures of future leadership. In SY 2016-7, YLF conducted a study measuring the leadership development of our students compared to peers. YLF students outperform peers across 8 measures predictive of future leadership, including focus, effort, judgment and preparation.
4. YLF has been named "One of the Best" Small Non-Profits in the Greater Washington Catalogue for Philanthropy. YLF was chosen out of 200 for our organizational excellence. We are counted among just seven organizations featured by the Catalogue to provide substantive mentoring in the District out of a sea of 341+.