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Nomination Letter

York, PA

"I understand that YAP Board of Directors is accepting nominations for scholarships and I would like to nominate [Sarai Ozuna] for this scholarship. Sarai Ozuna was my client from 1/12/04 to 11/12/06.

"Sarai Ozuna is a twenty year old single Mexican mother who is bilingual. I have seen her progress from an angry, confused teenager to a lovely, confident young woman. She was brought to the U.S.A. by her mother as a young child and was placed in foster care at the age of twelve. She experienced four different foster homes and finally was placed in the Bush home in Red Lion where she continues to reside.

"Sarai is gifted artistically and while she was in the Youth Advocate Program, she took art and ceramic classes which allowed her to develop her artistic talents. She has received ribbons for her art work at the York Fair in 2005 and 2006 and also at one of the Richard Nixon Park's Wildlife Art Contests. Her artwork was also displayed at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg from June 9 to June 15, 2006. She has won ribbons for ceramic work at the York Fair in 2005.

"Sarai received the YAP TREND Youth Leader of the Year award in April of 2005 for her compassionate volunteer work with the residents of Pleasant Acres Nursing Home. She also joined her advocate in volunteering to teach a knitting class at the Kaltreider Library in 2005.

"While Sarai was in the YAP, she has been able to reach her goals of getting a green card allowing her to work in the states, acquiring a Social Security number and getting a job so that she could get her driving license and buy a car. She graduated from Red Lion Senior High School in 2005 and qualified for cosmetology school through the OVR program because of her juvenile arthritis. She is now enrolled in Empire Beauty School studying cosmetology. She is doing well and hopes to graduate from the school in July, 2007. After graduating from Empire Beauty School, she will need to find a job in her field and get housing for her and her son. A scholarship would help her achieve this goal."

Award Speech

Chris Derck, Director
York County Advocate Program, York PA
August 15, 2007

Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization with a 31-year history of partnering with public agencies to provide community-based alternatives for youth who are, have been, or maybe subject to compulsory placement in public or private institutions. Additionally, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. provides social service, health and judiciary agencies with a cost effective alternative to those high-priced residential facilities that often times have higher recidivism rates, skyrocket prices, and a milieu that fosters institutionalization and works little with empowering families to make positive change. Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. was founded in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1975 and our corporate headquarters remains there today. Currently, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. has evolved to over 125 programs throughout fifteen states in the U.S. Serving ten thousand youth and their families annually. Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. also operates multiple programs in the United Kingdom and Ireland and provides administrative support and financial assistance to sister agencies in Guatemala, Sierra Leone, and Hawaii making Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. an international partner on system reform and providing opportunities for the chronically under served.

Locally, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. has a rich history here in York County. The relationships we enjoy and cherish today were established over 31 years ago making our York County Advocate Programs our agency's oldest and currently is one of the largest programs serving approximately 275-300 young people and their families weekly right here in York County. Our community-based approach stems from the premise that young people, regardless of the label they carry, have strengths and capabilities that can and must be developed. We also believe that the likelihood of positive outcomes for youth and their families dramatically increases when services are delivered within the homes and communities with full family involvement.

Approximately four years ago, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. embarked on a new and exciting journey that demonstrates a commitment to one of our nine core principles, "Giving Back". The Youth Advocate Endowment Fund was created to offer monetary awards and financial support to current or former clients who expresses a desire for hire education and has successfully completed the requirements by the referring agency and Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. "Giving Back" is a cornerstone of our service delivery approach that drives our work daily as we carry out our organization's mission. As most of you know, Endowment funds or any funds for that matter take many years to mature before you can start offering the money to well deserved individuals. I am honored to share with you today, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. in only its fourth year is able to offer 5 separate scholarships this year. What I must share is how the Endowment fund was able to have so much early success. All contributions are employee generated and not one cent of county, state or federal dollars generated through revenue is associated with this cause. Employee efforts range from many different fundraising initiatives such as, basket raffles, golf tournaments, car washes, carnivals, picnics, food stands, bottle drives, office vending machines, coupon books, cook books, apparel sales, and our largest contribution being that of Youth Advocate employee payroll deductions. Annually, each of our 125 programs is charged with raising one thousand dollars to be contributed to the endowment fund. With our largest contributions being that of payroll deductions it is proven that our staff invest in our organizational mission and philosophical underpinnings, to promote positive change with the youth and families we serve.

To qualify for the scholarships, every program within our organization nominated former or current youth involved with our agency who have engaged in higher learning or aspire to do so but lack the means or resources to make this a reality. Those young people nominated were then informed and asked to produce an essay on why they should be considered for such an award. The Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. Endowment Board reviewed each essay and selected a total of 5 young people to receive Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. first Endowment payout. Of these recipients, I am proud to share that three out of the five were awarded to young adults in the state of Pennsylvania and two, right here from York County. All of this would not have been possible without the partnership between Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. and York County Children and Youth Services. On behalf of Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., I would like to recognize the exhaustive effort that York County Children and Youth Services and the Human Services Division give daily to provide support, guidance and structure to families in need and often in crisis all throughout this diverse County. Dr. Anderson is here with us today and on behalf of Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., I formally thank you and your agency for allowing this day to be possible and for the service you provide to York County. Too often the crisis and dysfunction overshadow the good and contribution that is given daily by your agency and others. Today, your agency should be recognized for its priceless value and contribution to many who have enlisted your agency's support.

With all of this being said, I want to introduce to you Sarai Ozuna. In 2003, Sarai was referred to Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. to receive advocate services as she needed a positive role model, mentor and coach to help her find her destination. At the time, she may tell you that she had no idea where or what the destination was but it was evident through her suffering academics and school attendance, failing in many different foster homes that her world was spiraling downward out of control. Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. initiated services immediately upon receiving a call from York Children and Youth caseworker, Monica Becoski and introduced Pat Eyler, her advocate, to Sarai and her new foster family, The Bush Family. It was then, and only then, that Sarai found comfort and strength to see the good in herself, to see the promise she had, to explore skill sets never exposed and to become a responsible, independent law abiding resident of York County. It would only be fair and appropriate to allow Sarai to share the story, but I must share that in working closely with Sarai for many years and watching the growth and evolution of a child to a young adult has been a life changing experience for me and one that allows me to believe today that hope remains for everyone who has a desire to change and a will to make it happen. Sarai, you are not just a success story for Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., the Bush Family or York County Children and Youth Services, but an inspiration to all of us who made a life commitment and share a unique desire to help others. Sarai's essay which was made available to those in attendance today, acknowledges her current ongoing work at Empire Beauty School. Because of your courageous drive, your never give up approach, your demonstrated ability to overcome extreme adversity and willingness to receive support and guidance from others, I am honored to present you with the first ever award from the Youth Advocate Endowment Fund in the amount of $1,000.00 to assist and support your continued desire to grow and learn. Sarai - today your achievements make us proud and we celebrate you. On behalf of York County, the Bush Family, Pat Eyler, York County Children and Youth Services and Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. we say thank you and congratulations.