Rebecca Yenawine was born in 1972 and raised in both New York City and upstate New York. She has had a long-standing interest in community work. In High School Yenawine volunteered as a youth mediator between parents and young people, created a bias awareness group and took care of children in a battered women's shelter. Because of her interest in art and painting, she attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in the heart of Baltimore city. This experience introduced her to the neighborhood of Reservoir Hill, a mixed but mainly low-income African American area of the city. With the help of her family, Yenawine bought a large row-house on "The Hill", putting down roots in an area many sought to leave.
Before graduating from college, Yenawine already had the idea of integrating her artistic talent with her commitment to grassroots community service and education. After catching some teenaged girls with spray paint cans in hand, intent on graffiti, she began to give free art lessons to the girls and other neighborhood kids. Opening her home to the neighborhood youth, she continued to offer art related activities and a safe place to "hang-out" away from the corner drug trade.
What began in 1994 as an informal initiative rapidly became a structured five-day-a-week after-school and summer program. Today this same program employs several full and part-time employees. At the core of each project are four goals. The first is to give a creative, constructive release and educational experience for the children directly involved. Second, the projects aim to provide much needed beautification of the neighborhood. Third, the programs foster supportive long-term relationships between young people and adults. Finally, activities serve as a catalyst for social change by giving a "voice" to inner city young people. This serves to demonstrate that, despite the problems of this part of the city, there is pride, creativity and a sense of community that has the power, albeit slowly, to transform the district into a better place for all.
Specifically targeting youth identified as likely to drop out of school, at risk for drug abuse or unintended pregnancy, the Kids on the Hill currently supports up to 40 youth between the ages of 7 and18, and provides mentoring to 35 children in a variety of ways. In 1999, Yenawine successfully gained non-profit status and formerly launched her programs under the auspices of "Kids on the Hill" . In the future, Yenawine plans to extend the program into a Charter High School.