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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Nina Bowen’s middle school years were the toughest of her life. Now a high school graduate, headed to college, Nina is preparing for a profession where she’ll give others the kind of holistic therapy and support that empowered her to take her life in a positive direction.
As with many teens, Nina struggled with some anxieties in school. Nina had the courage and determination to seek out help. Even after receiving treatment from multiple therapists and counselors, she was not satisfied with her progress. Then someone told her mother about Youth Advocate Programs and Adult Services (YAP) Inc. in Lackawanna County. Unlike the other clinicians who treated Nina, her YAP counselor, Andrea Sharpe, was a mobile therapist. She visited Nina regularly at her home and in her community.
“I was able to work closely with Nina on areas where she felt she needed help and watch all her progress,” Andrea said.
In addition to counseling Nina, Andrea worked with her YAP team to provide support for Nina’s sister and connect her mother with resources that reinforced the entire family’s foundation.
“Eventually, home became more stable and school was easier to handle,” Nina said.
Andrea watched Nina progress. Empowered with new ways to manage her anxiety, she said Nina maintained high honors and became more social by joining clubs at school.
“Towards the end of service, Nina was able to advocate for herself and make tremendous progress with her treatment goals,” Andrea said.
Nina is headed to the University of Scranton where she will major in pre-med and biochemistry. After that she plans to go to medical school and pursue a career in psychiatry.
“Without this program, it would be fair to say my life would not be the same,” Nina said.
Nina recently learned that she is one YAP’s 2018 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship winners. Andrea proudly wrote her letter of recommendation.
Nina has been inspired through her treatment,” Andrea said. “I have no doubt that Nina will succeed in her goals, as she always has.”
Nina says the $1,000 Endowment Scholarship will greatly assist her to pursue her aspirations by awarding her with a laptop computer and will make things easier for her single mother who will support her throughout her education.
They say the force of the Crimson Tide is relentless. Given all she has overcome already, leaving Sparta, N.J. to attend the University of Alabama makes perfect sense for Jenna Ryan.
“On an initial piece of paper outlining my grade history and academic achievements, I do not seem perfect, I may not even seem above average, but paper is only two-dimensional,” she wrote in her essay for the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Endowment Scholarship.
The essay described behavior problems Jenna struggled with throughout her childhood, including elaborate lies, tantrums, even hunger strikes.
“My issues only grew worse throughout middle school; from weekly outbursts towards peers, to visiting the principal’s office for impulsive decisions, followed up by countless lunch detentions.”
Jenna said she knew she was disappointing her parents, and she wanted to do better. But she couldn’t get a handle on her anger or understand why she could not stop acting out.
Jenna said two and a half years ago, she hit rock bottom. “In February of my sophomore year, the police arrived at my house once more to tame an argument between a self-destructive teenager and two bewildered parents, but this time it was the last straw.”
Morgan is about to embark on her second year, spring semester at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) in Lebanon, PA. She has extensive knowledge and experience with the Lebanon Youth Advocate Program (YAP). In her endowment essay, Megan wrote about the various YAP services she participated in starting in elementary school and continuing through her high school years. Megan still benefits from YAP services; her advocate, Cinthia Bueno accompanies her to her college classes. Morgan was happy to share how YAP services helped her cope with “medical disabilities, social and emotional challenges, as well as long term illnesses."
At HACC, Morgan is studying Early Childhood Education. She currently maintains a 3.73 Grade Point Average (GPA). As she has consistently achieved Dean’s List, she is part of the HACC Honor Society as well. Cinthia, a developmental disabilities support advocate, wrote that Morgan has also achieved more independence in both school and her community. YAP congratulates Morgan on receiving a Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship. She is on the road to a rewarding future, and will inspire and make a difference in the lives of young children very soon.
Mayra, recipient of a Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship wrote about overwhelming sadness that started in her junior year of high school. A recurring thought she had was, “I’ve always had everything I ever needed from my family, so why am I feeling like this?”
“I didn’t know exactly how to react when my school nurse told me that she was going to call my mom to pick me up to take me to the hospital. I just sat there and nodded politely.” Mayra broke down on the way to the hospital. Her mother “spoke in a soft tone, as if almost a whisper, ‘don’t cry sweetheart, it’s all going to be okay.’” There would be additional hospitalizations prior to her involvement with the Fort Worth Youth Advocate Program.
Mayra participated in the YAP Advocate and Behavioral Health programs. During her time at YAP, she asserts that YAP “helped me to learn new coping skills I didn’t think I had, such as playing instruments, cooking, and working out. I benefited from the YAP program by learning how to relax when so many things in my head are piling up. I learned new breathing techniques, muscle relaxation exercises and grounding.”
Mayra graduated high school and now attends Texas State University. Her long term goal is to become a Clinical Psychologist. Fort Worth YAP, the Endowment Board and YAP Inc. look forward to seeing this resilient young woman achieve her career goals.