University of South Carolina

Advocate for at-risk youth to share her story Feb. 28

By Peggy Binette,, 803-777-7704

The founder of a New Orleans-based organization that provides mentors and educational resources for nearly 1,000 at-risk youth each year will be at the University of South Carolina Thursday, Feb. 28, to discuss the challenges and rewards of growing a successful non-profit.

Melissa Sawyer, co-founder and executive director of the Youth Empowerment Project, will discuss the realities that at-risk African-American children and teens face in New Orleans. Her talk, which takes place at 5:30 p.m. in the Carolina Room of the Inn at USC, is free and open to the public.

Sawyer has grown the Youth Empowerment Project’s budget from $235,000 to more than $21.6 million in the past nine years, without staff layoffs and program closures during one of the worst economic time periods in U.S. history and in a post-Katrina New Orleans.

A graduate from McGill University in Montreal, Sawyer made a lifelong connection with New Orleans after spending two years there through the Teach for America program. Committed to making a difference in New Orleans, she earned a master’s degree at Harvard University and returned to the city, where she worked with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana before establishing the Youth Empowerment Project in 2004.

Sawyer’s talk is sponsored by the Institute for Southern Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

News and Internal Communications

Posted: 02/25/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 02/25/13 @ 1:59 PM | Permalink

If you're going

  • Who: Melissa Sawyer, co-founder of the Youth Empowerment Project
  • When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28
  • Where: Carolina Room, Inn at USC 
  • Cost: Free and open to the public
  • Contact: Bob Ellis, or 803-777-2340



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