Melissa Sawyer, Founder & CEO, Youth Empowerment Project | Speaker

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Founder & CEO
Youth Empowerment Project
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Melissa is a Founder and CEO of Youth Empowerment Project (YEP).  Melissa received her B.A. from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and her M. Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).  Melissa first came to New Orleans through Teach for America (TFA) and she returned to the city after receiving her Master’s Degree in order to help reform the state’s juvenile justice system. In 2004, Melissa and two other juvenile justice advocates founded YEP as the first program of its kind in Louisiana to support formerly incarcerated youth transition back into their families and communities.  Over the past 17 years, YEP has expanded to provide mentoring, high school equivalency preparation, employment readiness, and out-of-school time programming to young people across the Greater New Orleans region.  Among the significant recognition she has received for her leadership at YEP, Melissa was recognized by the Times-Picayune as one of the 300 people “who have made New Orleans, New Orleans” (2018) and Gambit Weekly selected her as New Orleanian of the Year (2016).