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Scholarship Essay

My name is Yakua Banks. I am highly interested in being assisted with my education. I remember some time ago where school was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn't believe in myself at the time. My own family didn't believe in me, so I thought why should I. What changed that thought process was the consistency I got from YAP. Just having someone to listen to me gave me the ability to have a voice and really be heard. I learned that the best opportunity is to speak when you have the chance.

I have some really interesting goals, when it comes to my future. I want to become a well-known change agent in the world. I want to graduate with my associate's degree in human services and move on to receive my bachelors in psychology. I have already written my own Life Skills curriculum based on my personal experiences in the system. I will then market and hopefully get it across the county to help youth who have been in the system. I want to continue to be an advocate for youth to help them find their voices to speak up. I someday want to become a published author, and continue speaking to educate others. I know I am doing my part now but I feel with a higher education I can do more. Some people go to school for financial gain. I'm going to school to garner a better understanding of the world and the population I want to serve. I need financial assistance from the Endowment Fund to help me do just that.

I have been a part of yap for about 6 years. I got introduced to YAP as a client in the Newark, New Jersey program. I was once a homeless and troubled youth who had given up on life.  My mother was institutionalized for all of my life. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. I use to reside with my grandmother until she passed away in front of my little sister and me. I then went on to stay with an abusive uncle. The system didn't kick in until I started to get into trouble. They were never around when I had black eyes and was being abused. I have been in a handful of placements, detention facilities, and out of state programs. I have even been homeless on several occasions. I believe that if YAP didn't step in I would have definitely continued down the wrong path.

I wouldn't have met Mr. Frank, my advocate. Mr. Frank was the father figure I never had. He was someone I could trust. He was the person that never gave up on me no matter what the situation was. He never missed any of my calls. He was the definition of consistent. Mr. Frank taught me how to be responsible. He showed me how to keep landing on my feet. No matter what, if my head were held high, my landing would be great.

One of the greatest things he ever taught me was that everyone is not the same. I used to do things to try and push him away. I use to say things or not meet with him. He never gave up.

After being discharged from YAP, I joined VOICE. I gave my testimony in Wisconsin on behalf of YAP. I remain a part of VOICE and continue to serve on the National Alumni Leadership Council. I have given speeches at conferences, and at local programs as well as co-­‐facilitated trainings for social workers and staff. I participate in focus groups and calls to lend a youth perspective to YAP's grant writing process.  I have even spoken in Washington DC to share YAP's mission on the importance of community based care. My latest endeavor, was working with YAP and Mark Landsman in the YAP documentary.

This pasy year I moved from NJ to NY and became an advocate with YAP in Tompkins County. I facilitate my life skills curriculum and have the privilege to be an advocate and do the same work that helped me get to this point.

YAP has been a huge help to me.  Without YAP I wouldn't have had any of the opportunities I mentioned here. Receiving the Endowment Fund award would make a huge difference in my life by allowing me to not worry about how I am going to be able to afford to continue my education. I attend online classes through the University of Phoenix, and have consistently taken courses since February 2012. I currently have a 3.2 GPA. I never thought learning would be this important to me. Thank you for considering me as a candidate to receive this scholarship.

I am attaching my Bio as well as some links to some of the work YAP has helped me to do. If you are interested in seeing my Life Skills Curriculum, let me know and I can forward that to you all as well.

Nomination Letter

Peggy Thorpe, National Voice Director

I am writing to recommend Yakua Banks as a potential recipient of YAP's Endowment fund award.  I came to know Yakua through her involvement in VOICE as an Alumnus over 3 years ago.   The very first time I met her she was quiet and reserved.  We were both in Wisconsin to speak at a conference. I though to myself, "This kid is so quiet, how is she going to get up on stage and speak in front of these people, let alone the video cameras". That was the last moment I ever doubted Yakua.  She stood up in front of the crowd, with no practice, having written her speech on a napkin just an hour before, and spoke like she had done this all her life. She was composed, well spoken, and a natural at sharing her testimony.  

In my position at YAP I get the benefit of working with young people that have gained a little maturity and have a desire to help others. Yakua fits this profile and more. Every single opportunity that has been presented to her through VOICE, she has taken.  Even more impressive is her ability to make things happen for herself. She doesn't sit and wait for me to create these opportunities; she networks and builds them for herself. I haven't come across another young person who is so determined to not only create the best life for her, but also utilize her personal experiences to help other youth find their voice. 

Since being involved in VOICE, Yakua has given so much back to YAP.  
  • She has participated in numerous videos to assist our international development, train our staff, and show at conferences.    
  • She has spoken at many conferences on behalf of YAP. 
  • She has given her testimony to fight for legislation. 
  • She has worked as an Administrative Manager at the Newark YAP office. 
  • She currently works as an advocate in the Tompkins County YAP office. 
  • She wrote a "Curriculum for Life" for young people that YAP is piloting. 
  • She has partnered with YAP's grant writing team to offer a youth's perspective to the grants we apply for. 
  • She has participated in focus groups for YAP. 
  • She has co-­‐facilitated webinars with the EPD team. 
  • She is assisting YAP's communication department with the development of the youth portion of the new YAP website. 
  • She has spoken to her representative's in DC on behalf of YAP and youth in her community. 
  • Her image and quotes are regularly used in YAP's marketing efforts, grants, website, and reports. 
  • She is a leader within YAP's National Alumni Leadership Council. 

Yakua does all of this on top of holding three jobs and attending school online. Receiving the Endowment award would allow her to continue her commitment to educating herself to better help others, which is her dream. 

Thank you for taking the time to hear her story as well as all you do to help other youth reach their goals.