Our Mission

At Emerald Youth Foundation, our mission is to raise up a large number of urban youth to love Jesus Christ and become effective leaders who help renew their communities.

We’ve been working closely with the community since the late 1980s, when we began a summer outreach ministry designed to support urban youth. Read on to learn more about our history and activities over the last 25 years.

Our Organizational Values

We, a group of people who grew up in the places in which we serve and others who have joined the Kingdom cause from other neighborhoods, share an unwavering and accountable commitment to an increasing organizational culture of: 



We strive to shape our thoughts, attitudes, and actions after the servant leader model of Jesus Christ. (Phil 2:5-8)



We work hard and unselfishly, in Christian community, to fulfill our unique ministry roles and to bring out the best in each other.



We passionately aim to always be getting better by evaluating, discerning, growing, and discovering new and improved ideas to put into action.



We adopt practices and high standards which support a life worthy of our calling and able to meet long-term the expectations of our service with others.

Our History


Late 1980s - Early 1990s

Emerald Avenue UMC begins a summer outreach ministry with youth in Knoxville's Oakwood/Lincoln Park community. The ministry grows, focusing on serving youth after-school and during the summer. To affect more urban young people and raise the necessary support, the ministry is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization known as Emerald Youth Foundation.


Mid 1990s - Late 1990s

Emerald Youth Foundation continues to serve youth in Oakwood/Lincoln Park, and opens new locations in East Knoxville and Beaumont/Western Heights. JustLead, the flagship program of Emerald Youth Foundation, is launched. JustLead is based on Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets.



St. Mary's Medical Center purchases a facility for Emerald Youth Foundation at 1718 North Central Street and leases it to the Foundation for $1.00 per year.

Emerald Youth Foundation begins exploring opportunities to expand and replicate the JustLead program into locations throughout Knoxville, which leads to the development of the JustLead Network – a group of churches and faith-based organizations that offer JustLead to youth in neighborhoods across the city.



Tennova Healthcare (the parent company of what was St. Mary's Medical Center) generously donates the building at 1718 North Central Street to Emerald Youth.

The Sansom Family Foundation and H.T. Hackney develop a 14-acre parcel of property near downtown Knoxville as the Sansom Sports Complex to advance Emerald's field sports ministry, including soccer. 

Emerald Youth Foundation starts a separate, non-sectarian organization called Emerald Charter Schools. Its purpose is to launch Emerald Academy, Knox County's first public charter school. Emerald Academy is a free, independently-operated, K-8 college preparatory school.

Our Statement of Faith

Emerald Youth Foundation agrees with the Apostles' Creed as our primary statement of faith:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,*
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

*or "universal church"