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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 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.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn described herself as “a determined young woman who thrives off working independently. I never give up, doubt myself, or give less than my best on anything.” She credited her Roanoke (Virginia) Youth Advocate Program mentors with helping her find the path to a better future. In recommending Brooklyn Szepesi for the YAP Tom Jeffers Continuing Education Scholarship, Shaneka Bynum, Program Coordinator of Roanoke (VA) YAP wrote that Brooklyn is “academically gifted” and that she was “very proud of Brooklyn for enduring her experience as a foster child with limited natural supports.”

This fall, Brooklyn will attend Mary Baldwin College as a full time student in pursuit of a degree in psychology. Though she faced numerous challenges, Brooklyn learned from those challenges and gained insight. Her life experiences sparked her interest in “studying children's emotional reaction to trauma” and she discovered what she wants for her future. Armed with a clear vision for her future, she plans to help other young people find their path to healing. Shaneka wrote that she looks forward to the day that “Brooklyn casually strolls into the YAP office, beaming about her experiences abroad, people that she has met and adventures she has visualized for herself.” College is just the start for Brooklyn.

Heather

Heather credits the Adams County (PA) Youth Advocate Program staff with helping her navigate the difficult challenges she experienced in her childhood. Over 16 years, her family and she have worked hard to address the loss of her father, family struggles and psychological challenges. Today at 20 years old, Heather is focused on her future goals and is a shining example of resilience, determination and ambition. She credits YAP staff for helping her deal with her grief, anger, depression and all the harmful, angry emotions.

After graduating from culinary art school, Heather began working near her home as a chef. In applying for the Tom Jeffers Continuing Education Scholarship, Heather wrote that she will continue working as a chef at Olivia’s near Gettysburg while she pursues a business degree at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) Gettysburg campus. Armed with this degree, Heather hopes to eventually own and operate her own restaurant. Heather said that she “will make YAP very proud” of her and make it “worth the time they have given her.” Adams County and YAP staff everywhere are already proud of Heather and look forward to all her future culinary pursuits.

Tisheka

Tisheka was introduced to the Harris County (Texas) Youth Advocate Program when her daughter, Chanelle was referred several years ago for Probation Monitoring. Chanelle’s Advocate, Tonecha Jasmine wrote that Chanelle did an outstanding job during her time in the Harris County YAP and is now looking to complete high school. Tisheka wrote that in pursuing her college degree, she has seen a tremendous change in Chanelle. Tisheka wrote that Chanelle will enter 11th grade this fall, as she herself continues classes at Sam Houston State University. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Chanelle is also looking forward to pursuing a college degree.

Tisheka wrote about her struggle with a challenging business math class but said that she was determined to “work very hard," take “extra tutorials” even “stay up all night trying to understand all concepts.” She persisted and passed the class. Chanelle’s former advocate, Tonecha wrote that Tisheka is a “great parent… is very focused determined and persistent in her desire to complete her education.” The Harris County YAP and the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Board members agree with Ms. Jasmine’s assessment and look forward to hearing that Ms. Woodley, a three time scholarship recipient, has received her degree and that her daughter, Chanelle is following in her footsteps. The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Board encourages current and former clients and their parents to apply for this annual scholarship as they pursue their dreams and change their biographies.

Michael

Michael, a former youth in the Adams County (PA) Youth Advocate Program with an impressive resume already in his young life, added another accomplishment when the Endowment Board awarded him a second scholarship so he can continue classes at HACC Gettysburg. Since his participation in YAP back in 1996-1999, Michael’s partial list of accomplishments include:

  • High School Graduation
  • Long Term, full time employment
  • Maintaining his own apartment
  • Special Olympics participant
  • Special Olympics Hall of Fame Nominee
  • Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship Recipient
  • Public Speaker at Penn State & YAP Board of Directors Events
  • College Student

The Adams County YAP Director, Robert Witt wrote that Michael “throughout his schooling would stop by the Adams office on a regular basis and bring me his quiz scores, test scores. Michael attended our ribbon cutting and proclamation on July 6th in Adams and informed individuals how appreciative he was as well as how well he has done.”

Armed with a second Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship, Michael will take the next step toward his college education goals. YAP Staff from Adams County (and across the country) are rooting for his success and hoping that next year he will apply for a third scholarship to assist in the pursuit of his education goals.

Kamillah

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.

Paula

When Youth Advocate Programs conducts a Family Team Meeting, identifying the family’s strengths and needs is critical in achieving successful outcomes. Directors, Coordinators, and Advocates routinely ask, “What do you need? How can we help? How can we work together as equal partners? How can you help?” Newest scholarship recipient, Paula Lynch knows how well this approach worked for her family.

Paula Lynch’s daughter Erynn became involved with YAP due to chaotic and painful family issues. It was when her daughter’s emotional, behavioral and trauma issues became overwhelming that she was introduced and became involved with Youth Advocate Program. Ms. Lynch said that “Erynn’s relationship with Cylee from Crawford YAP was instrumental in Erynn’s self-esteem building.” Erynn completed the program and is on the way to completing her GED. If she stays on track, she will begin college in what would have been her senior year in high school.

Paula Lynch has come through complex family challenges and is pursuing her Master’s in Art Therapy full time, while parenting her three, busy and active children. Ms. Lynch hopes to find time “to become a speaker for YAP and the outcomes that involvement in the program produces.” The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship was awarded to Ms. Lynch to assist her in the pursuit of her post graduate degree. Crawford YAP listened to this family’s “voice and choice”, implemented a Family Team plan, and watched them move toward a better future.

Eva

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

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.

Genesis

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!

Michael

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!