YEA’s mission is to serve young adults, ages 14-24, in breaking the cycle of generational poverty in Denver communities by gaining personal and economic stability through education and employment training.


In 2007, the Youth Employment Academy (YEA) was established at Denver Housing Authority to provide specific opportunities in education and employment for low-income youth and young adults ages 14-24 in the Denver metro area. Partnering with the City and County of Denver Office of Economic Development Youth Services, among other agencies, YEA provided services to underserved youth that guided them to graduate from high school, earn their GED, earn industry specific certificates, attend post-secondary education, receive hands-on job training and become employed.

Beginning in 2009, YEA observed that many of the youth we served were lacking in skills and job training needed in specific demand driven industries. We noted that many youth, if they did graduate from high school, were funneled to college, ill-prepared and then dropped out and/or had little knowledge about career paths that were open to them – wasting their financial aid funding. In addition, with the recession, youth were not being hired for entry level jobs that were previously open to them. Young adults that had dropped out or were facing other barriers such as being an English language learner, a young parent or having a criminal record were provided even fewer opportunities for their future.   YEA addressed these issues by working with area employers in the culinary/hospitality and healthcare fields and developing industry-specific academies (the Pre-Professional Occupations in Healthcare Academy and Culinary Academy) to provide intensive career exploration and hands-on training in order that youth might become employed or move into the next level of post-secondary education needed for their career. YEA then added a Customer Service Academy in 2012 and an Advanced Manufacturing Academy in 2013. In addition, YEA continued to provide intensive mentoring through case management, tutoring, paid work internships and job coaching to address all issues the youth were facing.

In 2012, YEA moved forward and became its own 501 (c) (3). This change allows YEA to not rely solely on the Denver Housing Authority and government funding and look towards other ways to generate income. Working with our industry partners, YEA saw a need for hands-on training in the culinary industry outside of the classroom. In addition, DHA was in the process in building a vibrant community in the La Alma neighborhood and YEA saw the need there for a healthy, affordable restaurant to bring the community together. In February 2013, the Osage Café opened on the ground floor of the new resident mid-rise for seniors and individuals with disabilities living in public housing. This restaurant with a training kitchen allows for community involvement while training residents in the industry of culinary arts and running a business. We have had a great response from employers who have hired youth who completed the culinary program and who have commented on the excellent training of their new employees.

Nationally, YEA has been recognized as well, earning many awards including a National Award of Merit for program innovation in 2008 from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) and National Awards of Merit for our Culinary Academy and the Pre-Professional Occupations in Healthcare Academy. In 2010 YEA received the Public Housing Youth Program of the Year Award from the National Alliance of Resident Services in Affordable and Assisted Housing (NARSAAH). In 2014, YEA was again recognized nationally by NAHRO with National Awards of Merit for our Advanced Manufacturing Academy and the innovative Osage Café.

In eight years, YEA assisted over 2,000 young people in reaching their education and employment goals. With the continued support of DHA and supporters such as you, YEA is in a strong position to continue to grow and assist in building economic self-sufficiency in local neighborhoods so that all might see a prosperous future.