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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 100 scholarships, 34 in 2016 alone. Over 100 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.
As one of YAP’s core principles, working with families to identify ways that they can contribute to bettering their community, based on sharing their strengths or building upon their interests, is transformational.
Kamillah Nelson’s life has been transformed and she now has plans to transform the lives of other youth in her community. When her mother signed her up for the Houston (Texas) Youth Advocate Program’s YES Waiver Program in 2016 to address behavioral and anger issues, she was struggling. Kamillah began mentoring services with Donald Higginbottom, who helped her see that her future held “endless possibilities.” He wrote that Kamillah “learned from prior life experiences” and is a “serious thinking young woman looking to make a difference in the lives of other young people.”
This August, Kamillah Nelson will attend Houston Community College with the goal of pursuing a degree in Social Work and Education. She asserts that receiving the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship will help prepare her for her “journey to success.”
From what we can tell, Kamillah embarked on that journey to success back in 2016 and is on track to a bright future where she will help the youth that some others “don't want to deal with because of their actions and behaviors.” That’s what YAP does; transforms lives one biography at a time.
Two years ago, Eva Haydu was struggling with emotional issues that resulted in difficulties at school. A local community mental health provider suggested that she seek counseling services at the Youth Advocate Program’s Gloucester (NJ) Outpatient Clinic. According to her YAP therapist, Renee Riddell, Eva was “diligent” and “progressed in many areas” and due to her hard work, she overcame many challenges. Riddell detailed how motivated Eva continues to be and how well she utilizes the strategies she learned in therapy.
Clearly the interventions and strategies helped Eva at school too. She excelled academically and got early acceptance to Rowan University. Her future goal is to become a “helper” for others. She is uncertain whether she’ll be a therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse but she knows that, armed with the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship, she will attend college in September, take classes and explore opportunities that will help her realize her dream career.
YAP Founder, Tom Jeffers believed that “YAP in their work and interventions with young people, their families and their communities change systems and outcomes one biography at a time.” Eva Haydu is a shining example of Tom’s vision and belief in the strengths and capabilities of the young people that YAP serves in 22 states and Washington DC.
Nancy Zamora’s letter to the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Board demonstrated a clear vision of where she was and where she wants to end up. That is a special asset for a young person to possess.
In April 2016, she was placed on probation and sent to Nevada’s Homes for Youth. She was also four months pregnant with her daughter. YAP Director, Neosha Smith touted the fact that “Ms. Zamora was able to obtain her High School diploma and immediately started college at College of Southern Nevada to further her education in the area of Criminal Justice. Ms. Nancy Zamora is raising her daughter and bettering herself daily through creating paths that she did not have as a child for her own child.”
Ms. Zamora stated in her scholarship request that “I’ve made myself proud and most importantly I’ve made my daughter proud. YAP staff gave me confidence in myself to know that I can accomplish anything. I love that the instructors at YAP are so caring and I know that I can go to them if I need help with anything. They go above and beyond with their work so I know that there are people that care about me and my future.” YAP and the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Board awarded Nancy Zamora with a scholarship and applaud her determined pursuit of a successful future for herself and her daughter.
To her advocate Courtney, Genesis is a “rare student.” She described Genesis as confident and driven, with a great combination of natural ability and eagerness to learn. With her determination, Genesis became the first graduate of her family, has been accepted to San Jacinto Community College to pursue her career in nursing, and continues to serve as an excellent role model for her younger siblings. “Genesis is constantly challenging herself and pursuing a new journey.”
Genesis wanted to become a nurse because of her desire to help others. Surely medicine can cure someone, but the care that they receive from their nurses is equally as important. She has always wanted to make a great impact on people’s lives. “I would rather make a difference in the world than simply make money. For when I’m gone the money I make will not come with me, but the lives I’ve touched will live long after me.”
Congratulations, Genesis. Good luck in pursuing your passion!
To Michael, YAP was the opportunity and drive that he needed to keep moving forward. His life was not always easy, but instead of letting that be a downfall, he let it become a constant reminder to keep moving forward. Past experiences gave him energy and motivation to work hard, and showed him how to set his pride aside when help is offered.
“The Youth Advocate Program helped me target my ambition goals and dreams as a child," Michael observed. "Now as I’ve become a man, the Youth Advocate Program contributes to my success and graduation by assisting with books, tuition, housing and food.”
Michael is studying Computer Engineering Technology at the University of Houston and hopes to one day have a career is designing new technology. He also hopes that he can use his life experiences and what he learned at YAP to help others achieve those goals.
Congratulations on your 3rd Endowment Fund scholarship. Keep up the excellent work, Michael!
Catherine “Cat” Smith came into the Youth Advocate Program with one, seemingly unachievable goal: to go to college. She was hoping that she could make her way into the spring semester at Austin Community College, which didn’t give her much time, especially without the finances to get there. Cat would not be able to afford her books, tuition, rent or a new laptop. With the help of her advocate, Erika Bitar, Cat overcame some emotional hurdles as well as financial troubles.
Erika described Cat as a special person. With only a month to make her dream of attending college come true, Erika was impressed by how diligent Cat worked. She never missed a meeting or canceled an appointment, and she was always prepared with her paperwork. Erika was most impressed with the perseverance Cat demonstrated when she was applying for financial aid. With Erika’s push, Cat decided to apply for the YAP Endowment Fund Scholarship. “She is one of those individuals who this Endowment Fund was created for, and not only will it seal her accomplishment of being an AAC student, but she will be one of those YAP clients who rises against the odds.”
Cat now attends Austin Community College part-time. She hopes to major in Graphic Design and eventually become a graphic novel artist or a game designer. “I have been given an opportunity to make those dreams a reality, starting at ACC and hopefully transferring to a university to continue my studies a few years from now.”
Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
39 year old Michelle Lynch, a recent Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund recipient confronted a path replete with challenges, but she was ready for a change. In her Endowment Board letter, she stated that her number one priority after being released from a year-long incarceration was to be able to find and afford a place to rent so “I can have my son back home." To achieve that, she wrote that she had “to work through some emotional issues... that have hindered me from being 100%.”
While residing in a halfway house, she independently contacted the Harrisburg Youth Advocate Program Clinic for therapy and psychiatric services to help her move forward in her life. Her therapist, Alaina K. Johnson, LSW said that Michelle found employment on her own, applied independently to start schooling at Harrisburg Area Community College and in three months, she has “overcome many obstacles and continues to make progress and be motivated to do her best for herself and her son."
Michelle is working, taking college classes, engaged in therapy, and looking forward to being reunited with her son. Her outlook reflects her determination to be “the me that can do anything if I put my mind to it."
Nicole Polliard was referred to the York (PA) Youth Advocate Program (YAP) by her mother. Diagnosed with Asperger’s and confronting other challenges might deter some, Nicole chose to dream bigger and live bigger than her labels. Oprah Winfrey could have been referencing Nicole Polliard when she said, “You define your own life. Don’t let other people write your script.”
At the start of her YAP intervention, she was introduced to Mobile Therapist, Shirley Baer. Baer credits Nicole with “developing a stronger understanding her strengths, interests and capacity to overcome difficulties in her life.” Nicole credits Shirley with helping her “grow as a person” in order to tackle the challenges she faced.
Nicole graduated high school with an impressive GPA, began working and is now pursuing college classes at the Harrisburg Area Community College. She plans to transfer to Penn State to work on a degree in Business Administration. Nicole has developed a script that is very different than the one she had before Shirley Baer and YAP services were introduced to her. This Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship recipient has changed the life script given to her and she is looking forward to a future that includes finishing college and independence.
Michael Silvis walked to the front of the room and looked up to see the Youth Advocate Program Board of Directors and the Tom Jeffers Endowment Board members waiting to listen to his story. He could easily spot his mother’s smiling face reflecting a bit of the nervous energy that coursed through him as he began speaking. “I am Michael Silvis. I was part of the Adams County (PA) Youth Advocate Program from 1996-1999.” He went on to speak of his dedicated YAP staff who guided him as he completed high school and connected him to the community, including participation in the Special Olympics.
Coach Jimmy Johnson said that “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” Michael’s extraordinary efforts, so far, include a high school diploma, maintaining employment at two jobs (one full time for the past 8 years and part time at Gettysburg College), as well as living in his own apartment. He participated in the Special Olympics, was nominated to the Special Olympics Hall of Fame and was the Keynote Speaker at the Penn State Summer Games.
Michael applied and received the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship to defray some of the cost of attending college as he continues “to be the best coach” he can be for others. His speech ended with a standing ovation. His message was clear to everyone in the room, “Potential is not an endpoint but a capacity to grow and learn” (Kennedy-Moore).