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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.
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).
Childhood trauma, loss and grief, and battling negative thoughts brought Theresa Smith to counseling services with Beth Fischer through YAP’s Project One to Won at the Pocono Mountain School District in Carbon/Monroe, PA. Theresa said that Beth helped her “deal with my grief and emotions at my own pace. I believe it was because of her devotion and patience that I am still alive to this day.”
Fast forward three years, Theresa has been awarded her third Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship. Fisher wrote a letter of recommendation stating that Theresa “works hard, is committed and she has a bright future ahead of her.”Theresa exemplifies Maya Angelou’s words that “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Carbon/Monroe and YAP Staff across the country look forward to reading about Theresa Smith’s fourth Endowment Fund Scholarship and college graduation.
Adolescence is a challenging time for many youth. Chauncee Shackleford experienced bullying and peer pressure to join in local gang activity. He struggled to focus on school and academics and some poor choices he made brought a referral to Tarrant County (Texas) Youth Advocate Program (TCAP). He began his TCAP intervention, with his advocate, Tony Sharp, with reluctance but that soon changed. Chauncee found himself enjoying many activities, including a Texas Rangers baseball game with other TCAP involved youth.
Chauncee said that the TCAP helped him “realize this program is to help the youth change their life styles and decisions we make in life." Among the things he learned were “respect for people” and that “all the choices we make have consequences”. He also came to realize that he had the ability to change “life styles and decisions we make in life."
Chauncee Shackleford learned a lot about himself and about life during his time at TCAP. He graduated from high school, applied for and received the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship. He plans to attend Tarrant County College and pursue a career in Culinary Arts. It seems that Chauncee Shackleford has found a great recipe for a successful future.
We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, how the world works and what people are like. Some of the stories are disempowering. Kyrah Randall had more than her fair share of struggles in her young life. When she met advocate Nyeri Richards from Youth Advocate Program’s North Las Vegas Office, she was on probation. Grief, anger and loss were compounded by acting out behaviors and poor decision making. YAP came into Kyrah’s life to build a team of supporters, increase her talents and strengths and improve her chances for a better life.
At first, Kyrah tried to avoid her assigned advocate but Nyeri Richards was persistent. Richards stated in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund letter of recommendation that Kyrah Randall has “perseverance and a goal oriented mind” and that “there is nothing she cannot achieve." Kyrah, with the support and guidance of her advocate worked to “choose a new story” to define herself. She went from failing grades to all honors classes and, a few years later, high school graduation.
Kyrah now resides in California and is attending Chaffey Community College majoring in pre-Dental Studies. The Endowment Fund Scholarship recipient is hoping to continue onto dental school with an ultimate goal of becoming an orthodontist. Kyrah Randall’s “new story” is one that Nyeri Richards and YAP staff across the country is looking forward to reading about a few years down the road.
In the book, “Born Ready: Unleash Your Inner Dream Girl” the author, Jennifer Elizabeth asks, “Does our purpose on Earth directly link to the people whom we end up meeting? Are our relationships and experiences actually the required dots that connect and then lead us to our ultimate destinies?”
Destiny Colvin may have the answer to this question. In her scholarship request letter, she credits Williamson County, TX YAP and her advocate, who always offered “a sort of safe haven,” support and guidance. Introduced to YAP services in her junior year at Jarrell High School, she was linked with advocate, Brandy Vinson. Vinson, who nominated Destiny for the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship, wrote that Destiny is an “amazing young woman who has faced many challenges in her life. She has proven not only to her mom but also to the world that she can overcome any obstacle.”
Now a college freshman, majoring in Psychology with a minor in medieval and renaissance studies at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Destiny Colvin is the first person in her family to attend college. The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship will defray some of her college expenses so Destiny can focus on navigating college academics and follow the “dots” that lead to her exciting future.
Martin Luther King said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” Bonnie Rogers has struggled, fallen and stood up again. She has confronted childhood trauma, addiction, mental health issues and the loss of her son in therapy and treatment programs, and on her own.
These colossal traumas could have resulted in submission and defeat for many individuals but Bonnie Rogers persisted in taking those first steps to recovery and healing. Her inner strength, determination, intelligence and wisdom are reflected in her own words:
“Life is a classroom packed full of challenges, experiences and vital lessons. Often, one may fail a lesson in life and walk away feeling defeated, but will eventually understand that those failures were not failures. They were simply the stepping stones that are necessary to achieve greatness.”
In June 2016, Bonnie began counseling at the Harrisburg (PA) Family Clinic. Her therapist, Julie Kowalski wrote that Bonnie Rogers has shown “self-determination” and improved “confidence” in the short time she has been participating in counseling services. She is enrolled at the Harrisburg Area Community College pursuing a degree in psychology. In awarding her the Youth Advocate Programs’ Endowment Fund scholarship, the Harrisburg Clinic staff and all of YAP Inc. has faith that she will achieve her long deferred educational goals, all because she took that first step.
When Lottie Toney was referred to a YAP prevention program in 11th grade, she was described as “chronically truant," frequently absent and performing at a “sub-par” level. YAP developed a Morning Accountability Plan for Lottie and her mother. YAP staff showed up each morning to ensure she was able to wake, prepare for her school day and catch the bus. Within five weeks, Lottie was able to work her Morning Accountability Plan without her advocate. Her assigned YAP staff, Miss Heather then helped her develop an Academic Plan to catch up with the academics she missed. Lottie committed to the plan, gave her best effort and ended the school year with a 3.35 GPA.
Her senior year was filled with achievements. In addition to her academics, Lottie pursued employment, attended mental health counseling and recovery meetings where she received a three year keychain. Lottie graduated from Pittsburgh's Shaler High School in June and will continue her education by attending college this fall with the added benefit of a Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship.
Lottie says that “experiences at YAP were life changing." She was discharged from YAP in October 2015, but has continued corresponding with her Ireland YAP pen pal who she had the chance to meet in Harrisburg in November 2015. As if that weren’t exciting enough, Lottie recently had the opportunity to go to Ireland as part of a YAP cultural exchange program. It’s clear that she has a bright future and, with Lottie’s strength, determination and focus, she will definitely be going (more) places.