The mission of the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) is to empower a diverse population of youth to achieve a successful transition to adulthood through multi-cultural, comprehensive, and innovative programs that address youths' social, academic, and career needs.
The LAYC was incorporated in 1974 in the District of Columbia as a multicultural youth and family development center. It grew from a small effort supported solely by volunteers to a year-round multi-service center serving Latin youth and the wider community. Before 1974, it provided after-school educational and vocational activities in various locations. It was not until the late 1970s that LAYC began to receive public financial support.
A growing and urgent need to provide housing for homeless young men whose ages disqualified them for care in the foster home program but who were too young to live on their own resulted in the LAYC's purchase of a building in 1993 in D.C. and in its receiving a grant to help the youth transition from homelessness to independence.
Two years later, the LAYC received a grant for a YouthBuild program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which enabled it to assist young people from low income families to build their job skills while they earned their GEDs.
In 1997, with the onset of charter school in the District of Columbia, the LAYC became one of the first of five organizations whose charter application was approved by the Board of Education. It was also the first charter designed in the city by a Latino organization. The following year, the LAYC opened a new state-of-the-art facility to meet its growing needs and outreach to hundreds of youth and families.
Throughout the years, the LAYC has expanded its activities and youth employment programs by forming creative public and private partnerships (such as Ben & Jerry's and Art & Media House). In 2001, it received the prestigious Annie E. Casey Families Count Award highlighting outstanding programs that strengthen families by connecting them to the opportunities, services and relationships that will help them achieve their goals.
As its success has grown, the LAYC has developed new programs in job training and placement, developed new partnerships, expanded its Board of Directors, and has opened offices in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties in Maryland.
Under the leadership of President and CEO Lauri Kaplan, innovation has become a hallmark of the LAYC. The LAYC has reached national prominence as an award-winning network of youth programs. It was selected as one of the 100 most impactful organizations by the S&I 100. It was selected by President Obama's Social Innovation Fund from agencies across the country, and it was pre-selected by Venture Philanthropy Partners for its portfolio of four from hundreds of nonprofits.