YES Prep Public Schools
Aaron Ledesma

On March 7, 1998, YES Prep Public Schools was awarded a charter from the State of Texas. This was just the beginning of Founder Chris Barbic’s dream—to create a new school where students would have a better chance at success. Little did he know that his dream to provide opportunities for students in underserved communities would forever change the landscape of education in Houston. 

In 1992, Chris Barbic graduated from Vanderbilt University and moved to Houston to begin his two-year commitment with Teach for America. He taught sixth grade at Rusk Elementary, which served mostly low-income students from Hispanic families. 

"When my kids left my year, they went to the local middle school, and they started coming back and just telling me stories about what the middle school was like,” says Barbic. “And it was just like one horror story after another. These were great kids and families who came to this country, they wanted something better for their kids. And it was clear that the middle school just wasn't providing that.” 

After hearing an entire year of these stories, Barbic convinced families in the Rusk community it was time for a change. In the spring of 1995, Barbic, dedicated teachers, students and families began discussing the idea of creating a middle school on the Rusk campus. Excitement grew, and everyone became convinced that such an idea was necessary and realistic. The group imagined a middle school with a rigorous academic curriculum combined with a performance-based culture emphasizing a passion to learn, a desire to work hard and a commitment to community service. The group mobilized Houston's East End community securing letters of support, conducting town hall meetings and convincing neighborhood businesses to provide support.  

Project Y.E.S. (1995-1998)

Project Y.E.S. (1995-1998)

On June 3, 1995, the group car-pooled over 300 parents and students to the HISD central administration building to show the overwhelming community support for the creation of the middle school. The HISD Board of Education approved the proposal and Project Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) was born as a sixth and seventh-grade pilot program housed on the Rusk Elementary campus. The goal from the beginning was to prepare students for college. The idea is that low-income students can better serve their communities if they get college degrees. 

By 1998, Barbic learned about charter school law and realized that Project Y.E.S. could transform into a charter school that would allow him and his teammates to work with middle and high school students and help put them on the path to college. 

YES College Preparatory Schools
Original Name and Logo (1998-2006)

On March 7, 1998, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas State Board of Education agreed to convert Project Y.E.S. from a Houston ISD charter program to a state accredited open-enrollment charter school, originally named YES College Preparatory School. 

"In September of that year, we opened our doors to 300 students,” says Barbic. “It was a six or seven-year journey to get there. But it was one of the best things I ever did.” 

The first campus consisted of 11 modular buildings in a one-acre parking lot at the old El Mercado del Sol—Houston's first large, Mexican-style shopping center. In 2001, YES Prep moved from the original site to its founding school campus, YES Prep Southeast Secondary, home of The Wizards!

Little did Barbic and the founding teachers, families and students know, their dedication and belief in our mission would grow well beyond their humble beginnings. 

Since 1998, YES Prep Public Schools has redefined what is possible in public education. With over 18,000 students across 26 campuses, we are a system of high-performing public charter schools proving that students from any community can achieve at the highest academic levels.  

Our exceptional results demonstrate that better outcomes are not only possible, but also probable, when school systems build a culture of high expectations and create effective support systems to ensure that student achievement is at the forefront of every decision made. 

Here is to the next 26 years and beyond! 

Learn more about YES Prep's history and 25th anniversary celebrations.


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