Edward Redd founded YEMBA Inc. (Youth Educational Mentoring Basketball Association) in 2007, in order to engage with young people in Oak Park who may not have all the advantages and resources of their peers. The hook to draw them into his orbit was basketball.

Since then, YEMBA has expanded to offer more structured support, including tutoring and mentoring services, to middle-schoolers at Brooks and Julian through workshops offered inside of the schools. Since its inception, the organization has served around 1,000 young people, and trained and hired some three dozen to serve as mentors, Redd explained in an interview last year.  

Those numbers may well grow at an even faster clip now that the organization has its own office space. On Sept. 18, Redd held an open house for YEMBA’s new offices, located at 230 Madison St. in Oak Park. 

“I can’t express the importance of a physical address for college interns,” Redd said. “That will allow us to bring on more people, and with more people we can serve more kids and create more leaders. That’s what we’re all about.” 

Redd said that the roughly 1,200-square-foot office space, which features four office rooms and a common area, will allow YEMBA participants to have the flexibility that they didn’t have while in the middle schools. 

“Before this space, we were at the schools and had to work around their schedules,” Redd said. “I never know when I need to speak to a parent or have a meeting.” 

Jonathan Harris, a 17-year-old junior mentor with YEMBA, said the office will help more young people like himself. 

“Before YEMBA, I didn’t know a lot of community leaders,” Harris said. “It’s given me a chance to really network with people and helped me to be more professional and organized. I’m happy to see YEMBA’s growth. We now have our thing.” 

Aaron Brown, 17, who also serves as a junior mentor at YEMBA, said he’s already fallen for the new office space. 

“I’m loving the new facility,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to expand what we do and to have more junior mentors and provide more workspaces for the mentors to make YEMBA grow even more.” 

For Redd, an electrical engineer by profession, the space is just an expansion of the mission that has anchored his organization since he founded it more than a decade ago. 

“It’s not just about what happens today,” he said. “These kids are our today and our tomorrow. So somebody has to sacrifice. Today, I’m making that sacrifice. Tomorrow it will be their turn. This is what we’re teaching at YEMBA — that tradition of handoff.”

Shanel Romain contributed to this report. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

Join the discussion on social media!