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The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education

In 2004, YAP started our Youth Endowment Fund. The purpose of the fund is to support our youth and families in pursuing college or vocational schools to advance their skills and economic opportunities. The Endowment began awarding scholarships in 2007. Since its inception, YAP staff have raised over $1 million for the Endowment and awarded over nearly 200 scholarships. Over 300 YAP employees contribute to this fund through weekly payroll deductions.

In 2014, the fund was renamed the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education in honor of YAP's founder.

Michelle

Less than two years ago, life for Michelle Labrecque was more than 100 percent about her children and managing their complex health and developmental challenges. To say she was overwhelmed would be an understatement.

“[My son] has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, oppositional defiance disorder as well as specific learning disabilities in math and written expression. [My daughter] has been diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.”

Michelle tried intensive in-home therapy from multiple providers, with no improvement and at times, “devastating consequences.”

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Ashlee

Ashlee Freed of Mercer, PA, has gone through a lot throughout her entire life. Ashlee was adopted at six years old by the Freed family. She quickly assimilated into her new family and reciprocated their love and respect toward her. Ashlee was always a leader in her family, assisting her younger siblings with homework or chores, resolving disagreements between siblings, and helping her mother with simple tasks around the house.

This past year, Ashlee experienced something that tested her strength, capability and compassion more than ever. She lost her biggest cheerleader and best friend, her adopted mother, Stephenie, to Leukemia. While her entire family was coping with the loss of their mother, wife, sister, and the glue that kept them together and afloat, Ashlee found a way to balance mourning and taking on her mother’s responsibilities. Ashlee made sure that her younger brother logged onto Cyber School, all seven family members had dinner, the animals were fed, bills were paid by her father, and resources were contacted so the family could sustain itself. The Freed family has two dogs, six puppies, twelve cats and kittens, three goats, and recently sold two alpacas. Ashlee is responsible for their care, ensuring they are fed, groomed, vetted, and loved.

After nearly a year of being the strength and support her family required, Ashlee was also ready to put herself first, for the first time in her life. Ashlee has a passion and a talent for caring for animals. She has served as a volunteer with various animal support organizations and has now chosen to pursue a career in this field as a pet groomer. To support her pursuit, Ashlee applied for and recently received a scholarship through the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund to help pay for educational expenses. READ MORE

Jacob

Equipped with a new laptop computer and a toolkit of life skills, Jacob Maher-Vanmeter has completed his first semester at Rowan College.

The computer came courtesy the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship. YAP is a nonprofit organization in 23 states and the District of Columbia, that provides community-based alternatives to out-of-home placement of youth and young people referred through social services or youth justice partners. YAP established the scholarship to help individuals and families served in its programs pursue their educational and professional goals.

Jacob’s life skills toolkit came through Gloucester/Salem YAP’s Life Skills program.

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Duke

These days, Kendrick Lamar’s song, A.D.H.D., runs through 19-year-old Darnell “Duke” Davis’ mind like a soundtrack of this chapter of his life. A second semester freshman at Lincoln College in Illinois, Duke interprets the lyrics as conflicting expressions of anxiety, stress, fear and hope.

In addition to a basketball scholarship, Duke received a $1,000 Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship to cover additional college expenses. He’s determined to prove to everyone who cares about him and helped him make it this far that their investment was worthwhile.

While Duke’s parents split when he was a toddler, both his mom, a nurse, and dad, a truck driver, and both sets of grandparents have always been there for him. In his junior year at Fenger Prep on Chicago’s south side, his support team grew to include Ragen Lewis, his YAP Advocate mentor. In 23 states and the District of Columbia, YAP partners with youth justice and social services systems, primarily as a community-based alternative to youth incarceration or out-of-home placements. YAP also teams with organizations like Get IN Chicago to provide support for Chicago Public School students who live in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by gun violence, have experienced loss and/or frequently get into trouble at school. READ MORE

Evan

Young people with behavioral health needs and those who love them can be inspired and encouraged by the story of Evan Barkhimer of Johnstown, Pa.

Barkhimer is a student at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, taking steps to achieve his goal to become a psychologist and researcher. For three consecutive years, he has received the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship award. YAP partners with youth justice and social services systems in 22 states and the district of Columbia to serve individuals and families with complex needs. Named for YAP founder Tom Jeffers and supported largely by donations from the nonprofit’s employees, the $1,000 endowment scholarship is available to young people currently or formerly enrolled in YAP and their parents and guardians to support their education, career or creative pursuits.

For Barkhimer, school was once a major challenge. “As an elementary school student “mainly because of several mental disorders I was dealing with at the time, I had difficulty in school getting my work done and behaving myself,” Barkhimer wrote in his scholarship application essay.

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David

Growing up with Asperger's syndrome, David Chapman benefitted so much from having an advocate at his side that as a young adult, he is working to become one, himself.

"I worked with David as a young child until he was in fourth grade. He is on the spectrum and he got back in touch with me a few years ago to let me know he had finished school," said Susan Fuller, who worked for more than 15 years for Youth Advocate Programs (YAP). David was among the dozens of young people she supported in her role as a technical support specialist, providing individualized toolkits for day-to-day living in school, with family members and in their communities.

In addition to working for his local fire department, David recently started working for YAP in Crawford, Pa. When he shared with Susan that his ultimate career goal is to support children in the way that she empowered him, she reminded him of one of the tools available to individuals and families served by YAP. Funded largely by YAP employees, the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing education scholarship is a $1,000 award that helps turn college and career dreams into reality. READ MORE

Colin

Colin Bresslin is at his best when he’s outdoors. As he begins his freshman year at Allegany College of Maryland, where he has selected forestry as his major, Colin sees his life’s dreams becoming reality. He thanks Bedford, Pa. Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) for empowering him with tools to help make it possible.

Colin was diagnosed at age four with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “I always was a good student; I was just very active, and my thoughts were impulsive, and I was overwhelmed with more than one-step directions,” he said. “I feel most comfortable when I am outside.”

As a young boy growing up in an urban Erie, Pa. neighborhood, times outside were few and far between.

“If I wanted to go outside and play, I had to wait until one of my parents could drive me to a local man-made park to enjoy being outside. I did not get to enjoy walking up a tree-outlined path to get to my urban retreat, but instead arrived in a steal car on tires.”

Outdoors time became even more limited when Colin’s parents divorced before his tenth birthday. READ MORE

Victoria

This fall, two dreams come true for Greenville Technical College freshman Victoria Foster, who shares that just four years ago, for the fourth time, she tried to take her own life.

More than anything, Victoria wanted to be healthy. She also hoped to see South Carolina Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc. -- which she credits for empowering her with tools that strengthened her foundation – expand to reach more people battling behavioral health-related challenges.

“YAP gave me so many resources that other counselors haven’t. They come to your home and you become comfortable,” Victoria said. “The biggest difference with YAP is that they grew a relationship with me, my grandmother and everyone in my support network. They really do have open, good hearts.”  READ MORE

Madison

A key to Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc.’s success is that the program advocates for the entire family of each individual it serves. YAP applies this effective model to its diverse programs across the nation and in other countries.

Madison Washington is grateful that YAP’s holistic family support continues when individuals and families complete the organization’s programs. When one of her siblings was being served by YAP earlier this year, Madison enrolled in YAP’s Workforce Connections program.

Madison said the program taught her important skills that made her a better employee at her job as a cashier. For example, she became more empathetic, knowing that a customer’s difficult behavior could be tied to personal hardships that have nothing to do with her.

“Madison has been positive since day one, never has missed a day of work and is always giving her best, whether at the office or at work,” said Yadirra Ramos, who manages the YAP workforce development program in Las Vegas.  READ MORE

Kevin

At age 18, Kevin Gamber is careful to make choices that will put him on the road to success. At a recent gathering in his honor at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc. in Lancaster, Pa., he shared his personal story to let a group of young people know that like them, he’d made decisions in the past that were sending him down a very different path.

“During my junior year in high school, I had become involved with drugs and some peers who were pulling me in directions that were steering my life down a road that would stop me from reaching my full potential. I had been placed on probation for criminal trespass charges and was suspended from school. Then a week before I got off probation, I got a DUI,” he said.

While he faced house arrest, Kevin said his probation officer recommended that instead, he enroll in YAP. YAP works with juvenile justice, social services, behavioral health and other pubic systems partners as a unique home-based alternative to costly youth prisons and other out-of-home institutional placement. Kevin said YAP’s model of matching youth with mentor-advocates helped turn his life around. READ MORE

Kayla

People who have combatted a serious illness will tell you it affected most if not every aspect of their lives. For Kayla Greer, years of behavioral health struggles made high school and home life extremely difficult.

That’s why Kayla is grateful to Roanoke Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc. She said YAP provided the support she needed to improve her health, family relationships and grades. YAP serves as an alternative to institutional confinement, delivering behavioral health services in individuals’ homes and communities.

“I had been in therapy for a year or two prior to YAP, but it wasn't helping. That's when we decided to try somewhere else,” Kayla said. “When I first started, I didn't have motivation for school and I was really struggling. I've been with this program for over a year. I've made a huge improvement.”

This month, Kayla starts a new chapter at Virginia Western Community College, where she plans to begin her studies in Early Childhood Education. She recently learned she will receiving a $1,000 2018 YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship to help her get started.

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Martin

Martin Pelmore came to Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) of Clark County, Nevada through the organization’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) initiative. The WIOA program is designed to help youth who have dropped out of high school or are out of school because of issues related to homelessness, incarceration, foster care, learning disabilities or other life struggles that make getting and keeping a job challenging. However, the program also provides work skills for some young people who are in school or have already earned their diploma, but face obstacles getting and keeping a job. Martin was one of those youth.

What stood in Martin’s way was not having Nevada identification. He was born in California and only had a photo copy of his birth certificate. YAP helped him navigate through the bureaucracy of contacting agencies in California to get an official birth certificate. YAP also walked him through the process of using that official documentation to get a Nevada state identification card.

Martin got a job washing dishes and cleaning up at Papa Murphy’s Pizza in Las Vegas. Working with YAP career coach Tiffney Lindamood, Martin applied for and received a Clark County Food Handler Training Safety card. He also learned basic skills, like how to establish habits of timeliness. The Food Safety card and job skills enabled Martin to move up from dishwashing and cleaning duties to making pizzas. The promotion gave him enough work hours to cover his rent and other household expenses.

With boosted confidence, Martin was able to revisit an idea that occurred to him when he was in the tenth grade and suffered a collar bone injury while playing football. For two years, he held fast to his dream of being an orthopedic surgeon. Here, again, his YAP team has been there for him.  READ MORE

Sierra

At age 17, Sierra Brown has already experienced more adversity than many people two or three times her age. But thanks to her determination and a strong support system, summer 2018 has proven to be the beginning of a new and promising chapter in her life story.

During the past two years as a high school student in Vineland, N.J., some of Sierra’s classmates knew her struggles. Perhaps because their own problems paled in comparison, her friends were always there for her. They knew that with all Sierra had going on at home, she was a good student; and they encouraged her to stay the course. What they and anyone who had seen her school records knew is that for years, Sierra has carried the weight of a grown woman – and then some.

By the time she was 8, Sierra was fully aware that her mother was battling serious health issues. A few years later, with two younger siblings and their father in the house, Sierra had taken on the role of family caretaker. Her younger sister is autistic and her brother – the baby of the family – would often act out when their mother was coping with her disease and his parents were not getting along. Sierra helped as much as she could. At the same time, she studied hard and brought home good grades. “I didn’t want to be an extra burden to my mother,” she said. “Plus, my siblings looked up to me.”

When her younger brother was in kindergarten, aware that her mother was unable to get up early, Sierra would wake up in time to get both her siblings fed and dressed before walking them to school. The doors to their school opened at 7:15 a.m. and the morning bell at hers a mile away rang at 7:54 a.m. Sierra would always make it on time to her brother and sister’s school; but even walking fast and sometimes running, she’d often be late, herself.

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