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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.