“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” ― Benjamin Disraeli 

Director and Founder – Sharona Sledge

Sharona has dedicated her life to being an urban missionary who primarily uses public speaking and music to serve in the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago and around the world.

Sharona was born and raised all around the South and moved to Chicago in 2011 to build her career as an artist manager and event coordinator for Christian hip-hop artist.  Little did she know that her life would change once she would come in contact with YMEN.  After one trip to South Dakota with the YMEN staff and students, Sharona decided to once again focus her time and talents on youth development.  With more than eight years of experience with working with after-programs and nonprofit teaching programs, she committed to mentoring YMEN students in 2012 and founded PEARL in January of 2013.

Mentor – Karen Trout

Karen is a wife, mother, sister, and much more, and she offers great wisdom and perspective on all of those roles.  She has also dedicated almost 20 years to serving the North Lawndale community by teaching science at a local school.  As the wife of Michael Trout, the Executive Director of YMEN, Karen has also found herself serving a major role in the support and maintenance of the Young Men’s Educational Network.


Assistant Program Coordinator/Volunteer – Noelle Dryden[/h4]
Noelle moved to the Lawndale neighborhood in 2011 and has been a part of the PEARL program since 2014.  She is in my sixth year of teaching second grade at Chicago West Side Christian School, which is located across the street from the YMEN/PEARL Center.

Noelle grew up in the southwest corner of Michigan in a little town called Sawyer and is the third of six children.  She grew up as a pastor’s kid and after graduating from Wheaton College, she taught Spanish for two years in Michigan. She enjoys playing basketball, coaching, singing and playing the guitar, camping and hiking.

Noelle says, “I am most satisfied and full of joy when I see children and youth growing in their academics, character, and love for God and others.”

Founder and Executive Director of YMEN- Michael Trout

Michael Trout is a graduate of Wheaton College who moved into the North Lawndale community with Karen in August, 1992. After serving four years with the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, Michael Trout became the Executive Director of YMEN at its inception in November, 1996. He has received a certificate in non-profit management from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has completed financial training through the Nonprofit Financial Center. He completed a 15-month training with the DeVos Urban Leadership Institute and has received numerous awards for his work in youth leadership development. He lives with his family in North Lawndale, Chicago.