Organization for Youth Empowerment

Organization for Youth Empowerment
Organization for Youth Empowerment
Abbreviation OYE
Motto Youth Helping Youth in Honduras
Formation 2005
Type NGO
Purpose/focus Humanitarianism
Headquarters Washington D.C. and El Progreso, Honduras
Region served Honduras
Website Official Site

Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) is an international NGO working in El Progreso, Honduras.[1] OYE is dedicated to the development of at-risk Honduran youth through an integrated academic scholarship program, a youth capacity-building and communication program. The final goal is the creation of youth leaders with a social conscience that are agents of positive change in the Honduran population.[2]



OYE was founded in 2005, inspired by a vision of a society where young people have a powerful voice, and the knowledge and resources to effectively use it to create change in their lives. After spending many years volunteering with youth in El Progreso and witnessing first-hand the challenges facing them, Justin Eldridge-Otero and Ana Luisa Ahern piloted programs aimed at empowering young, low-income Hondurans to become active, responsible leaders in their community. As a critical first step, they started a scholarship program to help students who would otherwise be denied an education due to economic barriers. They quickly saw that access to a formal education was just the beginning and started developing an integrated leadership curriculum that is now broken up into three programs: Youth Capacity Building and Leadership, Community Engagement, and Institutional Strengthening. From the beginning, OYE’s founders recognized that in order to be a sustainable program, OYE must be led by representatives of the constituency it serves – Honduran youth.

OYE is established as a 501(c)3 charity in the United States, and all of its programs are carried out in Honduras.


Ana Luisa Ahern and Justin Eldridge-Otero volunteered at a home for disadvantaged children in El Progreso, Honduras since their adolescence and have developed a close relationship with the community. Justin and Ana Luisa spent many of their summer vacations teaching art classes, painting murals, and playing soccer with the kids. After graduating from Columbia University in 2004, Ana Luisa and Jessica Mockrin, decided to return to El Progreso and worked full-time. OYE began to grow through the progression of art programs in orphanages, the inclusion of various large-scale murals and after-school programs, and photography classes accompanied by general creative and artistic expression. After numerous pilot programs, they decided to focus their attention on education.


The three founded the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) in the fall of 2005, turning their work in El Progreso, Honduras into a sustainable scholarship program. Together, these three founders built an organization that would equip and empower youth with what their families were denied: the opportunity to rise out of the poverty cycle through education[3]. OYE, legally constituted in 2005, is structured as a U.S. not-for-profit 501(c)3 public charity organization. The organization's board of directors[4] include veterans in international development and professionals in the U.S and Honduras. It was also supported by Oxfam International, Care International, Accion International, Kodak, and many more local and international organizations.

In the following years, OYE completed several photography workshops with local youth. With these photos they organized a traveling exhibit called "Fotos de Mi Pueblo" which premiered in El Progreso, and went on to be featured in San Pedro Sula, and the capital, Tegucigalpa. Fotos de Mi Pueblo has also been featured across the United States by OYE volunteers from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. OYE sold several prints to benefit the program. In November 2006, OYE received the YouthActionNet Award[5] given by the International Youth Foundation[6], recognizing young social entrepreneurs who have founded sustainable development projects across the globe[7]. OYE also created a weekly Youth Group, made up of teenage girls from an orphanage and the local community.[8] This group created a space to analyze the needs of the youth. OYE also had a daily Sports and Youth Development Program facilitating soccer practice and tournaments, motivational games, and involving the youth group at the athletic facility to encourage a healthy lifestyle.[9]


In 2007, OYE went through considerable changes in administration and operation. OYE, with a new central office, hired local and international staff aiming to expand OYE's potential. Beginning in the fall of 2007, the Organization for Youth Empowerment began a long and involved selection process to find fifty motivated and engaged youth that would become part of the growing scholarship program. At the end of each selection process, OYE honored its recipients with a ceremony welcoming the entire community. OYE's multi-faceted selection process helped the Scholarship Program reach out to a strong and diverse group of youth that would lead OYE's programming for 2008 and carry it into the future.

OYE was selected by the International Youth Foundation as a winner of the 2008 Starbucks Social Entrepreneurs Fund Award[10].

During 2008, the scholarship program grew. Students who were unable to use a computer mouse were suddenly editing radio programs and teaching other students to do the same. Students who could not articulate their desires or express themselves were now interacting with peers, local staff and international volunteers to communicate their situation and call for change in their communities. Once again, OYE began a rigorous application process and started 2009 with 75 vibrant and eager youth. In 2011 OYE's scholarship number has grown to 91 young people.

Youth in Honduras

Youth from many hardship situations go to OYE determined to improve their lives and communities. During the interview process students express a strong desire to continue studying despite the economic difficulties and family demands. A large portion of the students come from single-parent homes, where they face challenges of income, education, and overall development. Over half of the scholarship recipients are young women; those coming from single-parent homes are often obligated to tend to the household, caring for seven or more family members. Male recipients are asked to sacrifice academic studies in pursuit of minimal wage employment. The average monthly family income of many grant recipients is between 2,000 and 3,000 Lempiras (approximately 100-160 dollars) for families of seven or more.

OYE believes that education will empower these students to create a positive and nurturing environment in their personal and professional lives. OYE students constantly express their hopes to improve themselves so that in the future they are prepared to offer the same support to others in their situation.

The young women and men who make up OYE are driven to overcome and improve their situations through education. OYE trains students to excel in academic settings and leadership positions, helping them take control of their personal development by participating in OYE projects. Still, Honduran youth face many challenges[11], including growing family disintegration[12], gang membership[13], violence[14], human trafficking[15], and teen pregnancy[16]. Since 2005, OYE has helped young people break these cycles by empowering youth leaders to pursue their academic interests, form solutions to social problems early in life, and advocate for the improvement of their communities.

OYE's Programs

Academic Scholarships

Scholarships are at the core of OYE’s programs, providing an educational stipend that helps at-risk youth overcome the financial barrier that interrupts their formal education. Scholarships are awarded to students with leadership potential to continue their academic education at local schools and to further their development through OYE's Capacity Building & Leadership Program and Community Engagement Programs. Students become eligible in the 6th grade (about 12 years old) and can continue receiving their scholarship as long as they are enrolled in school, provided they meet academic achievement guidelines and actively participate in OYE’s programs. Scholars come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with approximately half of all OYE families making less than $210 per month. Only 11% of youth have a parent who completed high school.

In 2011, OYE had 60 returning students and 31 new students, bringing the total number of active scholarship recipients to 91. Since 2005, 339 students have received life-changing OYE scholarships, the majority of whom have been young women and girls. Currently 40% of OYE scholars are male, and 60% are female. In 2011, OYE incorporated 31 new scholars.

Education is essential to personal and social development. OYE advocates that the most sustainable change is created through education. OYE's Academic Scholarship Program offers young women and men with limited resources support and access to a formal education. The number of scholarships has grown more than 36% every year.

OYE's students are equipped with the resources to complete their high school and university studies through the generous support of donors who contribute to their scholarships. OYE recipients hope to not only create a better future for themselves and their families, but to also gain the tools to create a better future for their country.

Capacity Building & Leadership Program

To fill the gaps left by the Honduran education system, OYE created a capacity-building program, training youth to establish personal goals, build self-esteem, seek solutions for social problems, understand sexual and reproductive health and develop study skills. The first four months of every year consist of weekly meetings where the students participate in a wide range of activities and exercises. The lessons of capacity building enrich and motivate students to become visible leaders within their community.

Community Engagement Program

After the Capacity Building Program, the scholarship recipients are given the opportunity to participate in several youth-created, youth-produced projects: a magazine Revista Jovenes, an art initiative Arte La Calle, and environmental awareness campaign Preservando Paraiso, a sports tournament COPA OYE, a Cultural Exchange Project and a community radio program OYE El Ritmo. Our scholarship recipients design and lead these projects in order to articulate and express opinions towards their community. These outlets provide a safe, nurturing and empowering space for these students.

OYE el Ritmo- Youth Radio Program

"OYE el Ritmo" is OYE's radio program, which consists of 15 students, is completely youth recorded, executed and produced. Students research creative, insightful ways to address issues and share ideas. With the guidance of local radio youth professionals these youth are preparing to launch a bi-weekly show that provides a platform to voice their opinions and insights. It is an energetic group of students that infuse the radio with excitement and fresh ideas.

Jovenes- Youth Magazine Program

OYE’s youth magazine, Jóvenes, works to teach OYE students to think critically about their realities and articulate their understandings. It is with this training that they write, design, and distribute a magazine focused on informing, educating and entertaining their peers.

Magazine topics have included local corruption, environmental concerns, Honduran culture, health and much more. The first edition was distributed in May 2009 and was a major triumph for OYE and students. They have since distributed more than 6,000 magazines in their communities, high schools and universities.

COPA OYE- Youth Sports Tournament

In an attempt to bring together the youth of El Progreso through sports, OYE launches an annual soccer and volleyball tournament between competing high schools and other youth organizations. Approximately thirteen teams participate in this city-wide event to exchange ideas, practice teamwork, meet new friends, and ultimately familiarize themselves with the organization.

OYE uses sports to create a space needed for young students to speak, listen, share and create new methods of expression that allow them to develop personally, therefore preparing them to serve as role models and leaders in their communities. During COPA OYE, OYE advocates and implements the importance of fair-play and team work. OYE expects and encourages participants to use the game as a platform to practice good sportsmanship and expand ideas of leadership.

La Calle- Art Outreach Program

La Calle is a realization of OYE's belief that artistic expression has the power to build confidence, inspire hope, and transform lives. The 25 students involved in La Calle meet every week to learn the elements and principles of art and design, art history, and participate in group critiques. Students learn techniques such as drawing, painting, coloring, collage, screen-printing, woodcuts, and sculpture. Students also partake in community murals and art demonstrations in local schools. Local and international volunteers help guide conversation and creative exploration, but each piece is created and executed by the students, whether individually or in small groups. OYE students use art projects to inspire the community and teach non-OYE students the skills they learned in La Calle.

The La Calle group also includes a few members of the magazine program. During the magazine meetings, students learn digital photography and the use cutting-edge design software, Adobe Creative Suite 4 to develop magazine layouts and advertisements.

With the support of local businesses, La Calle works to create visually stunning and informing art work. The goal is to create a space for students to join together and articulate issues in a public forum that will encourage dialogue and new understandings. Through these activities the students grow individually, learn group cooperation, and generate change in the society.[17]


OYE Alternative Spring Break Trips

OYE offers week long Alternative Spring Break Trips for groups of 15–20 students. Trips are focused on immersion and understanding of the Honduran educational system, challenges that face youth and how to make a sustainable difference. Trips also complete a community service project, gain a basic understanding of Honduran culture, and experience the beauty of Honduras first hand. James Madison University, American University, George Washington University, and Mary Baldwin College have participated in trips and internships with OYE.


Internships for academic credit are offered with participating universities.


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External links

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