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July 27, 2011 - The Little Road-Trip That Could: YESS Institute Leads the Way

What: Cocktail Reception for the YESS Institute

Where: Chloe Mezze Lounge

When: Wenesday, July 27, 2011

Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $40

Beneficiary: YESS Institute

Host(s): Chloe Mezza Lounge

Founders: Carlo Kriekels

Executive Director: Carlo Kriekels

Staff: Daniel Medina, Contracted Program Specialist, Angelina Rodriguez, Program Specialist, Amanda Mausner, AmeriCorps Member-Program Specialist, Liz Feldhusen- Program Specialist North

Libations: Chloe Mezze Lounge

Sponsors: BlackTie Colorado;

Attendance: 30

Attire: Business Casual

Event Coordinator: Yung Vu

Board of Directors: Anjulie Rao,Joél Contreras-Fundraising Committee Chair, Justin Krieger-Fundraising Committee Member, Thomas M. Doherty- Board Chair, Kyle Henderson-Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, Greg Vernon-Secretary and Fundraising Committee Member, Yung Vu-Strategic Planning Committee, Terri Slivka-Curriculum Committee, Portia Prescott-Strategic Planning Committee

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 Board Members Terri Slivka, Carlo Kriekels, Tom Doherty and Joel Contreas
Board Members Terri Slivka, Carlo Kriekels, Tom Doherty and Joel Contreas

Carlo Kriekels decided to take a direction in his life – South.  

He was completing his first law degree and had seen much of the world.  Belgian-born, he spoke five languages.  Yet something did not sit right with him.  He needed a vacation.  No, he thought, what he needed was an adventure.  So he and his friend, Ronald, embarked on a yearlong motorbike tour going from Mexico to Chile - top to bottom.

The objective was simply to have the time of their lives.  But in visiting a Belgian schoolteacher in Kali, Columbia who had started a shelter for abandoned children and street kids, they found themselves volunteering there and getting to “experience the emotional being of these children,” as Kriekels put it.  He was appalled to see the kids sleeping together in shop doorways, holding bottles of glue to help them forget that their parents had kicked them onto the streets because they could no longer take care of them. It touched his heart, and he determined that he would do something meaningful with his life, something in which he could help children.   

Visiting South America opens something inside your heart where you are forced to care about something, “ he explained in a NPR interview.  “If I’d seen it on a television I could switch it off and watch sports after that.  But when you travel there, you are forced to be touched by that.”

He never practiced law.  Instead, his passion led him to study leadership training.  One of the key components of his studies was emotional intelligence, or EQ.  This is the ability to recognize what others, or even yourself, are feeling and then use that information to guide your thoughts or actions.  It allows you to react properly to emotional situations, but also to understand – and therefore change – your thinking processes.  This leads to better self-image, confidence, integrity, listening skills and empathy for others.

These are all traits of good leaders and good employees, and companies were eager to hire Kriekels to develop their staff.

But Kriekels recognized that these were also good traits of successful students.  It occurred to him that if he could turn businessmen into leaders, he could use the same tools to build leaders among children.

In 2001 he created the YESS Institute.  It’s a unique peer-based platform that uses curriculum and guided activities to empower kids to mentor other at-risk kids. 

Kriekels offers his corporate leadership and EQ training to some of Denver’s toughest schools.  He says, “An adult can come in and work with the kids, but they will quickly see that they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Our mentors are their peers, kids who have come from the same background, the same neighborhoods, the same problems.  They know how they think.  They get it.  It’s important that the other kids can see someone else who has made it.”  The Institute focuses on keeping kids in school and getting into higher education.  It’s a road out to a future that’s wide open.

What does the future hold for the YESS Institute? Currently they are formalizing their YESS Emotional Intelligence curriculum.  Their workshops are also available to nonprofit leaders and school staff.  On Wednesday, July 27 they held a cocktail reception at Chloe Mezze Lounge on Market Street to a select group of supporters with the aim of furthering their program development. 

You didn't have to drive to Chile to get inspired.  Get involved with the YESS Institute and see how you can impact a child’s life.  Learn more at or call (303)-525-3859.



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