Youth Utilizing Power and Praise, better known as YUPP, opened its doors at 1290 Pomeroy Ave. in Santa Clara on Aug. 6. The ribbon cutting ceremony marked the nonprofit’s first independent location since its founding in 2002.
“[YUPP was founded to] create a cross-cultural network that enhances the whole being through performing arts, fine arts, public speaking and sports for those between the ages of six to twenty-five,” said Shelene Huey-Booker, Chief Executive Officer of YUPP.
Huey-Booker co-founded the organization with George Toscano in 2002. Since then, YUPP has served thousands of youth and adolescents “who suffer from loneliness, identity struggles, to find a sense of belonging.”
“We have youth in Santa Clara that are a part of our Light It Up School of Ministry Infused Arts program,” Huey-Booker said in response to how her nonprofit served the youth of Santa Clara.
Members of the program meet “weekly for ninety minutes of instruction in performing arts and fine arts at our YUPP Headquarters located on the campus of Mission City Church.”
The program is intended for children aged 6 to 16.
“We also have youth that are a part of our Breaking the Barriers Performing Arts Group,” Huey-Booker said, “Which meets on the third Saturday of each month to create an original production surrounding an established theme.”
This program is for those aged 6 to 25. The location is rotated monthly to serve different sections of the Bay Area.
“YUPP, in partnership with Family Giving Tree, also offers backpack giveaways and Holiday Outreach in which we have given out gifts and resources for ten years,” Huey-Booker added.
“It will not just be a headquarters,” said Huey-Booker when asked how the new location will serve YUPP’s vision. “This center represents youth, growth, arts, life skills development [and] an opportunity for success to achieve and greatness to come into being…We hope to develop a relationship with surrounding schools in the community in which we can serve families in the arts and additional resources.”
“We’ve never been afforded the opportunity to have a headquarters that we could call home,” Huey-Booker continued.
Prior to the new location, the nonprofit had operated for twenty years in a small office space.
“We began a relationship with Pastor John Caravalho in 2018,” she said. “We noticed this building that wasn’t in use. We found out it was available but was going to take quite a bit of work to clean up.”
“In 2021, we began a conversation about using one of the rooms for storage and if we could also paint the facility,” Huey-Booker continued. “When they began to see our work ethic, they offered us the biggest surprise in our history: to rename the center after us and give us access to a complete remodel. We now have a place in the community to call home.”
Huey-Booker described their new location on the Mission City Church campus as “a place where we can be a bridge; something designed to take those from different generational, racial and socio-economic stances collectively from one place to another safely. It’s a place where youth can come and know they are seen, known, loved.”
“Others looked on and saw a ruined building; we saw a goldmine of opportunity,” said Huey-Booker. “We are elated to serve and be a safe haven in the community.”