Youth Empowerment Project -- Y.E.P.

Youth Empowerment Project

The Youth Empowerment Project is committed to the overall preparation of youth for their future by successfully delivering quality educational and employment opportunities. 

The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) is funded by grants through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs.  These grants are overseen by the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services who contract with the Wood County Educational Service Center to provide services. YEP provides services to Wood County youth age 14-24. This program is available at NO COST to youth or families who qualify. 

YEP serves youth by assisting them in developing crucial life skills needed to be successful. We assist youth with setting and achieving educational, employment, and career goals. A wide variety of services are available including credit recovery, individual training and counseling, employment and career workshops, and opportunities for real life employment experiences with local employers in the community.

Leslie Head, LSW
YEP Coordinator
(419) 575-0109

Michelle Von Lehmden
YEP Specialist
(419) 806-8329

Matthew Meeks
YEP Specialist
(419) 494-2262

H.E. Paul Flores, M.A.
Community Outreach Worker and Case Manager
(419) 575-2001 


Services Offered

Interested youth or those wanting to refer a youth to the program should contact the YEP staff. We will determine if youth are eligible to enroll in the Youth Empowerment Project. Some factors that determine eligibility include but are not limited to:

  • Low household income
  • Youth has an IEP, 504 plan, or other documented disability
  • Youth is or has been in foster care
  • Youth is pregnant or parenting
  • Youth has other factors making them at-risk

The Keys to Success program is a structured workshop offered to all of our participants. It consists of multiple sessions covering information and skills needed to survive and succeed in High School, and assistance with preparing and planning for life after High school (career, further education and training, and employment). Community service and peer-centered activities are also part of this program encouraging responsibility and other positive behaviors.

Occupational Skills Training programs that help our participants reach their career and employment goals. Examples include welding, CDL, STNA, and other occupational certificate programs.

The goal of the Keys to Success program is to provide opportunities for youth to participate in group and one-on-one programming, focused on helping youth develop essential skills needed to plan for their future and achieve success

For youth still in school the program will be offered at several high schools throughout Wood County. Sessions will be held weekly after school. Additional opportunities and activities will be offered on evenings and weekends throughout the school year as scheduled.

For youth not in school, sessions will be held weekly at the Wood County Educational Services Center, or other locations as needed.

Group Programming may include activities such as:


One-on-one sessions may include:

  • Exploring career interests and opportunities
  • Finding a job
  • Writing a resume and cover letter
  • Succeeding in job interviews
  • How to be successful on the job
  • Balancing work, school, and life
  • Money management
  • Life skills and healthy choices
  • Resume writing
  • Completing job applications
  • Job interview role play
  • Career research and future planning 
  • Tutoring or academic assistance

Correspondence courses (often called Credit Recovery) are available providing an opportunity to earn high school credits for youth who are credit deficient. We offer over 15 different courses in a wide variety of subject areas. All courses must be requested and approved by the youth’s home school district. *These courses are available to any youth even if they do not qualify for YEP services for a minimal charge of $85.00 per course.

Referral to GED Readiness programs.

Assistance in exploring Post-Secondary Education options

The Youth Work Experience Program helps prepare youth for the “World of Work” by providing work experience opportunities with local private and public employers.

  • This program allows youth to earn a stipend or wage for their time spent at a worksite. It provides an opportunity for youth to experience the work environment while developing crucial employability and life skills.
  • Community businesses and organizations can give back to their communities through participating in this program by becoming work sites. They get the benefit of valuable help with their business or organization, and provide invaluable experiences to our youth.

Our participants are often faced with a variety of barriers and challenges that can interfere with their ability to be successful and reach their goals. We provide information and referral services to assist with these issues including parenting, child-care, transportation, housing, medical services, and mental health and substance abuse services.