The Aspiring Youth Program (AYP) of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division provides mentoring, educational and athletic activities to at-risk middle school students during "latch-key" hours. The program began in Houston, Texas in 1992 in response to the growing numbers of at-risk youth becoming involved in unproductive or illegal activities. Based on the premise that those with few productive after-school outlets are often recruited by gangs, drug dealers and other undesirable elements, the AYP fills this time slot.
In 1996, the ABA's Young Lawyers Division implemented AYP across the country, as one of two major youth-oriented public service projects. Through ABA/YLD's efforts, the program seeks to inspire and instill in America's young people a sense of self-worth, confidence in their abilities and a desire to succeed. AYP demonstrates the importance of education, hard work and commitment through positive role models, mentoring relationships with lawyers, business persons, sports figures and community leaders. The program provides educational and athletic activities after school.
Typically, mentors volunteer one to two days per week during the school semester. Programs generally include one hour each of education and athletics during a session. The students spend the first hour in the classroom and the second hour playing basketball or engaged in some other athletic activity. The program also includes inspirational speakers and concludes with a championship game, a spelling bee and an awards ceremony.
Five volunteers started the original program in 1992. Since then over 400 AYP volunteers across the country have provided service to nearly 4000 children in nearly 40 cities. The overwhelming majority of these volunteers are young lawyers, who recruit additional volunteers from their communities. The Gatorade Corporation has sponsored the program on a national level by providing in-kind support in the form of product and athletic equipment and apparel. Additionally, several professional athletic teams and other partners – including the Texas Young Lawyers Association, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, University of Houston, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Harvard University, Houston Astros, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys and U.S. Legal Support, Inc. – have also provided speakers to excite and inspire the program's participants.
Given the program's effectiveness and proven successes, the Aspiring Youth Foundation, based in Houston, Texas, was specifically created to carry out and expand the mission of AYP – to provide young people with a will to aspire and the ability to achieve success. The Foundation is working with even more partners to move the program into more communities across the country.