History

YES founder, Richard Williams YES Kids in 1997Founder Mary Williams skiingYES Founder Richard and Mary Williams
1968 YES began with a simple premise: Give Youth a Chance. Take city kids off the street corner and let them ski down a mountain. Let them feel the wind and sun in their faces, and maybe for the first time, the pride of achievement. It’s a whole different world out there. This can create a whole different kid. That is what happened to Richard Williams growing up in New York City.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his call to dream of possibilities, Richard took his passion to Boston and founded Operation Ski Lift. 500 kids from working poor families got that chance this first year.

1972 One-on-one attention from caring volunteers is the key for 1,000 kids who learn to ski each year. Youth Enrichment Services is incorporated as a 501© 3 with a purpose of people helping people. Outdoor recreation is the tool. Education is the purpose.

1975 Leveraging resources from ski resorts and sporting goods stores, as well as free warehouse space from the Christian Science Church, YES expands to year-round programs. Backpacking, canoeing, bicycling and environmental education trips are held at the Cape Cod National Seashore and at Swann Lodge, donated by the state of Massachusetts.

1980 YES is rated by the United Way as a highly effective volunteer-driven organization. J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management gives high grades to the culture of caring at YES.

Friends and alumni raise a half million dollars to build new headquarters for YES and expand programs. Job training for teens begins in the Macomber Rental Shop with 1,200 sets of donated skis, boots, bicycles, and camping gear.

1997 Harvard Business School evaluation finds that “YES has created a highly cost effective program which has a significant measurable positive impact on the lives of urban youth.” Snowboarding is now the most popular activity at YES.

2003 Thirty five years later, more than 100,000 kids have come thru our doors. Many youth alumni stay involved as volunteers and donors. “YES made me understand more about people,” says one participant. “Before, I put people into two categories-black and white. Now I see the difference in people comes from where they’re from and their family more than anything else. Before YES I never had been out of my neighborhood.”

2007 YES Academy established. This after school program partners with Boston middle and high schools. The Environmental Team, Girls Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Junior Volunteer Program, and Job Training are all part of a developmentally appropriate curriculum that teaches youth leadership.

2008Lauren Marshall, a YES Alumnus, graduated from Green Mountain College with 3.54GPA in Environmental Studies as the first recipient of the Richard Williams Memorial Scholarship.

2011 A record number of youth have signed up for Operation SnowSports. This 23% increase from 2010 means more than 8,000 activity days. “YES has put me ahead by opening me up to new things, the good things, and all the positive experiences they gave me,” says one participant.