When Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Advocate Omar Black met 11-year-old Trevon, he knew the kid was smart and talented. Never mind that Trevon had missed a lot of his sixth -grade classes and that when he was in school, he often found himself getting suspended. Like Trevon, Omar grew up in Schenectady, NY’s Mount Pleasant-Hamilton Hill neighborhood, where he experienced firsthand what it’s like to be a kid whose challenges can quickly lead to missteps, labels, and out-of-home placements.
Omar shared with Trevon that when he was young, he, too, had made some bad decisions. In fact, he’d spent time in youth detention centers and even adult prison. Omar told Trevon that eventually, he realized that in spite of what many adults and even some of his peers thought, he was a leader and had the ability to encourage others. He told Trevon that now, as a YAP Advocate, he gets to help young people see their strengths and connect them to resources to help them realize their dreams.
That was back in March. Since that time, week after week, Omar has helped Trevon realize that he’s a good kid with a great personality and a strong mind. Towards the end of the semester, Trevon’s school attendance began to improve. As he focused on the subjects he liked and thought about his future, his grades got better, too. Today, two weeks into his seventh-grade year, Trevon has had perfect attendance; and he’s enjoying his classes. When he’s not in school or studying, he’s at football practice, where he’s also working hard and trying his 12-year-old best.
“Through the relationships that Omar has within our community, he was able to connect Trevon to our Belmont Pop Warner Football team,” said Schenectady, NY YAP Director Kelsey Collins. “Trevon, never being on a team before or playing organized football, became a starter and has been a huge part of their team this year so far,” he added.
On Sat., Sept. 7, Trevon played in his first game. A lot of people were there to cheer for the team. But the one who mattered the most was Omar; because he showed up for Trevon, encouraging him as he has been since early spring -- steady and consistent, on and off the field.
YAP works through youth justice, child welfare, social services, education, behavior health and other systems to provide community-based alternatives to youth detention and other out-of-home placements. Omar will continue to work with Trevon until the tools he’s empowering the 12-year-old and his family with are firmly in place and sustainable to help the youngster succeed in school and in life.