Non-Profit Challenge Spotlight: Partners for Youth Opportunity

The Forrest Firm recently concluded its second Non-Profit Challenge, celebrating social entrepreneurship across North Carolina. At the close of the challenge, the firm and a group of celebrity client judges voted for three winning non-profits to receive pro bono legal services. In this blog series, we’re profiling each of the winners. This week, we are featuring Durham’s Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO), an organization with a mission to partner with the community to provide Bull City youth with opportunities to connect, develop, and contribute to their families and society through mentoring, employment, and educational support.

Partners for Youth Opportunity is the product of a 2014 merger between YO: Durham and Partners for Youth, a pair of organizations with similar missions serving the same youth population. YO: Durham was a project of Durham Congregations in Action, while Partners for Youth leveraged private and public sector support. The two organizations merged to “more effectively address the growing opportunity gap resulting from the chronic disconnection of Durham youth from economic and educational opportunities.”

By combining the efforts of two organizations, PYO has been able to reach more Durham youth, connect with more volunteers and businesses and expand services to better support students moving into post-secondary education. “As the sole organization in Durham that provides comprehensive, wrap-around services in four core areas for students from environmental factors that put them at risk, Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) is one of the best kept secrets in Durham,” said Executive Director Julie Wells.

The merger has made a difference not only in being able to offer more comprehensive services, but also with greater impact respective to each organization’s pre-merger calculations. “As a unified organization, PYO is now serving 100 students from 14 different Durham-area schools,” said Wells. “Our enrollment numbers are up 300 percent over pre-merger numbers.”

At the core of PYO’s mission are service offerings that may not be glamorous to many, but are so necessary for youth to thrive. PYO’s services are aimed at several impact areas for students, including educational attainment, economic stability, mentoring, and community engagement. Corporate and community partners participating in PYO programs include multiple departments of Duke University, Go Durham, Cooperativa Latino Credit Union, 1:1 Fund, Triangle Non-Profit and Volunteer Leadership Center,, the North Carolina Association of Volunteer Administration, Durham Performing Arts Center, Kids Voting Durham, and the Triangle Land Conservancy.

Over the last 6 months, PYO has invested in a new, comprehensive system to evaluate outcomes for its students and how our programs intersect. The organization has set values, goals and key performance indicators for all areas of service. Also, PYO’s leadership has rebuilt its board of directors and increased revenue year after year, positioning the organization to be a thought leader in non-profit leadership training and ways to effectively merge and/or create collaboration between non-profits who have overlaps in service population or intended outcomes.

Wells looks forward to working with Forrest Firm attorneys as PYO continues to advance its mission. “As we evaluate new funding alternatives such as earned income and more federal grant opportunities, as well as more advanced collaborations, we need legal advice and support,” said Wells. “We welcome the opportunity to work with Forrest Firm employees in a number of ways.”

The attorneys and staff of the Forrest Firm congratulate Partners for Youth Opportunity for its winning entry in the firm’s second Non-Profit Challenge. We salute PYO and the increasing scope of its impact in changing the lives of at-risk youth in Durham.

To learn more about supporting Partners for Youth Opportunity, visit their website at