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Tyler Nace, a senior at Kingston High School (in New York) set two goals with his advocate, Marc Tennien when he started at YAP in January 2015. His first goal was to become employed and the second was to graduate from high school. Tyler succeeded in attaining both goals. After completing a YAP supported employment placement at “Just a Buck”, he was hired full time. He will continue through the summer as a cashier and stocker. In August, he will begin classes at Ulster County Community College where he will major in Recording and Engineering.
Tyler credits his advocate, Marc for helping him turn his “passion for making music” into a career goal. Marc appreciated this intelligent, creative, funny and hardworking young man who also improved his relationships during his time in the Ulster Youth Advocate Program. Utilizing “informal and community supports” the family remained together and Tyler was able to focus on achieving his goals.
Tyler is already thinking beyond community college with his goal of earning a Master’s degree in Recording and Engineering. The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship and Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. celebrate the achievements of this talented, self-confident, young man as he focuses on achieving his next goals.
Luana surprised herself when she came to the realization that she had “made it to the finish line." She would indeed graduate high school with her fellow classmates and make plans to attend and pursue a degree in psychology at the University at Buffalo.
In applying for the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship, this eloquent young woman spoke of her struggles with anxiety, trust and negative thinking that made her doubt herself, mistrust others and emotionally shut down. She credits the Harris County (Texas) Youth Advocate Program and her advocate Ugonna Uba with helping her learn new skills including learning how “to untwist my negative thinking styles” that sometimes “clouded” her judgment. Ugonna states that Luana is “strong” and “unique” with an “intelligent head on her shoulders” and asserts that she made “great strides” during their time together.
During her six months with her advocate, Luana says that she learned to be more objective about her circumstances. “Circumstances that are now considerably healthier and brighter” and, “because of YAP, I can now see a future for myself with a dream.” After striding on stage to receive her high school diploma, Luana, armed with the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship, will prepare for college, more successes and a brighter, healthier future.
As Brandy Rogers graduates from the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program at Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC), she knows that the path to realizing this dream came with some challenges, including a life threatening medical issue that delayed but did not deter her from completing her degree. Brandy states emphatically that “It has always been my passion to be in the medical field, ever since I was a little girl.”
Back in 2004, Brandy participated in the Mobile Therapy and Therapeutic Support Services at the Youth Advocate Program (YAP) Office in the Endless Mountains Behavioral Health Program. She credits her Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) worker, Ruth Crain with guiding and supporting her as she achieved her YAP goals.
The challenges she faced as an adolescent and as a young adult were no match for Brandy’s ambition. “Being a fantastic and compassionate nurse means everything to me and I will also be able to help so many others, the way that others have helped me growing up.”
The Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship will cover costs for nursing uniforms and other fees prior to graduation. Brandy Rogers embodies the “never give up” attitude that is one of the benchmarks of YAP services and it’s certain that Brandy Rogers, LPN will be an asset to countless patients in her community.
Bethanie is presently completing her junior year at Mansfield University, majoring in social work, with a criminal justice administration minor.
She states, "Without YAP I would never have gotten to see the amazing things advocacy can do and would have never chosen the field I am in now. For everything they did and currently do, I am eternally grateful."
Morgan is a two-time award winner. She successfully completed her first year at Millersville University and plans to continue her education in the fall at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) - Lebanon campus. Her career goal is to work with pre-school aged children.
Dominic is a freshman at Lake Erie College majoring in Environmental Science with a 3.8 GPA. He is member of the track and field squad and is also pursuing part-time employment opportunities.
Dominic’s current situation contrasts sharply with his description of himself as a young teen-ager. He remembers when Probation referred him to YAP’s Lebanon Valley PA Program and how he dreaded the thought of doing community service with YAP Advocate Rick Pflueger.
Things changed after his first day of work in a community garden with Rick. “I was surprised to find myself looking forward to our next meeting,” Dominic said. “I was learning a lot without even knowing it,” Dominic said
Dominic discovered his love of nature and the outdoors through various activities. “Rick tied all the activities together, stressing how information about one subject can be related to understanding other topics,” Dominic said.
Dominic’s scholarship award will help with expenses as he continues his education. As importantly, Dominic carries with him the benefits of new experiences and the life lessons he learned from Rick.
Michael is studying Computer Engineering Technology at the University of Houston and looking forward to a career in designing new technology. He also plans to help young people who are struggling as he once was.
This ambitious young man is already making progress on his goals. In addition to his college studies, he is helping others by tutoring and influencing them to make better decisions.
Michael credits his YAP advocate, Anthony Brown, with helping him recognize his own capabilities and to make changes in his life. Assistance from YAP’s Endowment Fund helped Michael realize that “there are people who still believe that you can succeed with whatever your goals and aspirations may be.”
As he moves forward, Michael intends to use his own experience to help young people realize that a bad decision doesn’t define you as a person. He strongly believes that young people can change just as he did. “The choice is yours,” he says.
Melissa’s radiant smile on graduation day at Shippensburg University (PA) reflected pride in her accomplishment and hope for her future. With her Associate’s degree complete, she planned to continue her education but found a huge obstacle blocking her way: she had to quickly pay money owed to the University in order to move on. She turned to YAP’s Endowment Fund for help.
“I’m a Shippensburg University student facing extreme hardship,” Melissa wrote in her scholarship application essay—a conclusion that seems to be an understatement for those who know her story.
June B. Brown, MHS, Outpatient Therapist in YAP’s Harrisburg Pa office, has worked with Melissa since January 2015. June explained that Melissa experienced trauma through the deaths of her two brothers. She had a history of aggressive behaviors and depression, a physical disability and virtually no income.
“I am proud of the work that Melissa has done,” June wrote in her nomination letter to YAP’s Endowment Fund. “She has worked hard to remain calm and has completed her Associate’s degree. Melissa accomplished all of this while being physically handicapped.”
Melissa and June are both thankful for her scholarship award. Getting a financial roadblock out of the way means that Melissa can continue making progress in her life.
Danielle passionately believes that difficulty, pain and loss early in life are not reasons to give up. Instead, this determined young woman believes her experience is even more of a reason to succeed.
Danielle entered foster care at the age of 10. At age 17, after many difficult years, she found a family to call her own. That same year, her biological father passed away. “Ironically, the time when I lost my father was when I truly gained the family I had coveted for so long,” Danielle said.
“Danielle’s academic ability is great as is her intuition, logic and perspective,” said Wanda D. Morgan, BSW, QMHP-AC, Youth Advocate Program, Roanoke, VA. Danielle credits the YAP team with helping her achieve academic and personal success.
Danielle was an honor student and held two part-time jobs while earning her associate’s degree in Social Services. She also volunteered with TAP Domestic Violence Services and Matthew’s Child (an organization working within the foster and adoptive community).
Danielle’s YAP scholarship will assist with expenses at Mary Baldwin College where she is studying International Affairs. She plans to join the Foreign Services as a Consular Officer.
Peter Lechevalier and his brother Paul have much in common including a strong interest in computer technology. The brothers have participated in YAP’s Adult Autism Waiver Program, Somerset County, PA for about 4 years. With the help of a YAP Endowment award, Paul is studying computer-aided drafting. His success inspired Peter to apply for a YAP scholarship of his own. Peter’s award will help him expand his knowledge of Java programming. He hopes that programming skills coupled with his knowledge of computer hardware and repair will assist with future employment. The YAP team notes that Peter has already made progress with goals of independence. His YAP scholarship award is helping him take another huge step forward.
When Jada Osby looks to the future, college graduation is at the top of her ambitious plan for what she hopes to achieve. This multi-talented young woman envisions herself as a “business manager, dancer, poet, and actress, perhaps combined with a career in communications/social work." Now in her first year of college, Jada is a business major with an ongoing passion for writing and the arts.
Naomi Chargois, MS, Director of YAP’s Behavior Health YES Waiver Program in Harris County, TX, worked with Jada for about 1 ½ years. In her scholarship nomination letter Naomi wrote: “I have great respect for Jada . . . she has overcome many adversities and now takes the initiative in motivating herself.”
Jada credits Naomi and others with helping her overcome obstacles in her life. “Ten years from now, I will be able to reflect back on my accomplishments and state that I, Jada Osby, believed in my dream and now I have achieved it,” Jada wrote. She also hopes to show others that “anything you desire in life is possible.”
Naomi and the YAP team are confident that Jada will continue to give her best to accomplish the life of her dreams.
Paul Lechvalier is an ambitious young man whose career goal is computer-aided drafting. Over the past year, Paul has been working hard to develop coping skills necessary for him to move forward.
Staff from the Somerset County (PA) Advocate Program have helped Paul build an emotional foundation. “Now Paul is able and willing to take the next step toward education and hopefully gainful employment,” Sharon Seidel, MA, LPC, wrote in her letter nominating Paul for an Endowment Fund award.
Paul registered for his first computer-aided drafting class earlier this year. His scholarship provides needed financial assistance as he prepares to enter his chosen field.
Ishmara Torres is starting a new and exciting chapter in her life. With the help of a YAP scholarship, she recently began a 10-month program at the Everest Institute (Travis County Texas) to become a Medical Assistant. Enthusiastic support from her Williamson County YAP Team has encouraged her along the way.
“Ishmara is exactly the type of student that the scholarship program was set up to assist,” YAP Advocate Brandy Vinson wrote in her letter nominating Ishmara for a scholarship.
Program Director Tiffany Morris agrees. “Ishmara thought she was in trouble when she came to our program but that wasn’t the case,” Tiffany said.
Although she had never been in trouble with Juvenile Justice, Ishmara did need help to build her self-confidence and to succeed in school. Brandy began working with Ishmara in her senior year. When Ishmara told her that she “wanted to graduate with my class and become somebody,” Brandy helped achieve her goal.
“YAP really helped me break out of my shell and believe in myself,” Ishmara wrote in her scholarship application letter. “Not only did I gain more confidence academically, but I learned way more and succeeded in a way I didn’t think I would,” she added.
Now Ishmara, described by Brandy as an “amazing young woman who faced many challenges” knows that hard work does pay off and that she really can follow her dreams.
Juan R. Popote had been in the wrong place at the wrong time when Abed Rivera, Newark, NJ, became his YAP Advocate.
“I knew that I was dealing with a youth who wanted to make some changes in his life,” Abed wrote in his nomination letter for Juan’s YAP scholarship.
Determined not to repeat past mistakes, Juan worked hard during his six months with Abed. He became a highly motivated high school honor-roll student with a new circle of positive peers, baseball coaches and family in his life. With their encouragement and Abed’s help, Juan has carefully planned his career goals in law enforcement. Juan intends to earn a bachelor’s degree, join the National Guard, become a police officer and ultimately become a homicide detective.
In his scholarship application, Juan shared Abed’s encouraging words about good grades and doing the right things in school. Abed would always tell me: 'this is great, if you keep going down this road, nothing is impossible.'
“I’ll never forget that because it motivates me to do better for me and my family,” Juan wrote. “Ever since Abed walked in my doorway, I felt like my whole life shifted in a positive way and that’s a great feeling that I still feel."
Tynara is motivated by love for her grandmother who raised her since she was two years old. “Basically my grandmother gave up her life to protect us [Tynara and four other children] from being divided within the foster care system and I want to assure her that she did not make any mistakes by taking us in,” Tynara said. She also credits YAP’s NJ Gloucester/Salem team for helping her along the way. “Ever since I joined the program I feel more encouraged than ever,” she said.
YAP’s Thomas McGrorty found Tynara to be a motivated and active participant in the Life Skills program. He also notes that she is a talented amateur artist who will nurture her hobby through elective college courses. YAP’s program helped Tynara to enroll in college and to develop her long and short-term goals.
“I feel as though they [YAP] care for me just as much as I care for myself and I thank them,” Tynara said.
Thomas believes that Tynara is a perfect example of a youth who refuses to fail.
Tynara sees success as a way of re-paying her grandmother for the love and care she provided. “My goals will not ever stop and I will not ever quit!” Tynara said.
Isaiah Thomas has worked hard to overcome his struggles with being bullied and the resulting anger issues. This year Isaiah, age 18, graduated from high school with many impressive accomplishments to his name.
He has been a long-term volunteer at the Gettysburg Library and the Gettysburg Senior Center. He also joined his high school Chess Club where he made lasting friendships and went to the State Championship.
Now Isaiah is attending Harrisburg Area Community College-Gettysburg campus and majoring in web design. He plans to be a computer programmer and would eventually like to work in animation. Isaiah, the first in his family to attend college, has continuing support from his family, and friends.
“No matter what difficulties Isaiah has faced, he never gave up and continues to strive to be a better person,” Kayla Sollenberger, LSW, Behavioral Specialist Consultant with YAP, wrote in her nomination letter.
Isaiah’s YAP scholarship provides important financial assistance to him and his family.
Evelyn Corsale is entering Sussex County Community College (NJ), with two major goals in mind. “I want to make my mom proud even though she tells me every day that she is,” Evelyn wrote in her application letter. Evelyn also wants to earn a degree in Forensics Science. “I want to be the person who solves the picture puzzles,” she explained.
Since her father passed away in 2013, Evelyn and her mother have been struggling to solve problems of a very different kind. “My mom has always put us kids first and now with her being a single mom, I have seen her struggle in ways I’ve never seen before,” Evelyn wrote.
Caitlyn Steeves, LSW, Morris/Sussex County Advocate Program, worked with Evelyn for 18 months and nominated her for a YAP scholarship. “Evelyn has overcome a number of obstacles including being bullied for a majority of her school career,” Caitlyn wrote. Caitlyn believes that the qualities which impressed her—Evelyn’s insight, kindness, dedication resiliency and strength-- will continue to help Evelyn do well in the next stage of her life.
Evelyn considers her scholarship “a blessing” for her family. “My mom is the strongest person I know, but with my dad passing away it cut her income in half; then I turned 18 and even more was taken from her,” Evelyn explained. Thankful for her mother’s sacrifices, her scholarship and help from YAP’s program, Evelyn plans to work even harder to live up to what she believes is her full potential.
Joseph Reed learned many new things both in and out of the classroom during his first year at Rowan University. With help from his second YAP Scholarship, Joe plans to continue learning and growing.
Last year, Joe’s YAP Advocate helped him prepare for college and identify career interests. This year, Joe will re-enter college knowing that “I must put in more effort than ever before if I am going to keep to the standards I have set for myself.” He also knows the value of caring for himself mentally and physically. And, although he’s switched his major from chemical engineering to biological sciences, his overall goal of making a different in the world and the environment remains the same.
“I still wish to help others, but have decided to focus on the creatures that can’t help themselves,” Joe wrote. “With my degree I hope to research and observe animals, and use my research findings to help protect them from the many dangers that they face from human interferences in their environments.”
Joe appreciates the strong support of his YAP team. “Your [YAP’s] daily efforts helped me and others just like me believe in themselves and hope for a better future,” he wrote.
Alana Lugo’s scholastic achievements and goals for the future are outstanding for any 17-year-old. They are even more amazing for a young woman who calls her life story a “tale of survival” in the New Jersey foster care system. Alana was placed in what would be the first of nine foster homes when she was 13 years old. She maintained all A’s in high school, skipped a grade and graduated at the age of 16. She is now entering her sophomore year at Rochester Institute of Technology (NY). Her career goal is to earn a doctorate at age 23 and become a robotic engineer. Alana credits YAP’s Gloucester/Salem Title IV-E Life Skills Program with giving her help and motivation she needed to move forward. Staff member Thomas McGorty describes her as a highly motivated young person who has mastered numerous important skills. Alana too is happy with her progress. “I finally met my forever family after four long years of being tossed around the system and I am loving life,” she wrote in her YAP scholarship application. “This scholarship will provide me with the ability to continue my education, become a success story and bring pride not only to my family but also to this program.”
When Shimira Gardner first visited Shippensburg University with her Lebanon Valley (PA)YAP Advocates, she knew that she wanted to attend. Shimira now calls “Ship” her home. She is starting her third year of college (her second at Shippensburg) and will be declaring psychology as her major. This versatile and energetic young student will be taking two psychology classes along with classes in Chinese, math and time management. She is also returning to work at Papa Johns on campus.
“If it weren’t for YAP I wouldn’t have made it this far,” Shimira wrote in her application letter. “Hilary, Angie and Alyssa truly helped me see the importance of furthering my education and Hilary is still a huge help today.” With funds in short supply, Shamira also appreciates her YAP Endowment scholarship awards. She will use this year’s award for books and tuition. “I have seen my mother struggle and I do not wish to go down that path,” Shamira said. “It helps me realize how important education is.”
Theresa Smith has completed her first year of college and believes she is off to a great start. Her YAP Team couldn’t agree more! Theresa ended her first semester with a 3.5 GPA and her second with a GPA of 3.47. Recognizing that she has a long journey ahead of her, Theresa is determined to achieve her dream of becoming a veterinarian. Her second YAP Endowment Award will help her to continue in her majors of Biology and Veterinary Medicine at Findlay University.
Theresa connected with YAP through Project One-to-Won, a school-based Behavioral Health Program, at the Pocono Mountain School District, PA. She credits the YAP Team with helping her get where she is today. “I must admit, college life is hard work, but in the end I know that I am in the right place in my life to move forward and build a career I am proud of,” she said. “I look forward to all the new possibilities that come in my career path.”
When Lakesha Cameron achieves her goal of becoming a teacher, her students will have a compassionate role model who is dedicated to academic success. With help from her previous YAP Endowment Fund Scholarships, Lakesha completed her first three years at Kean University (NJ). By her sophomore year, she had a 3.7 GPA. She had also overcome shyness, uncertainty and difficulty building and maintaining peer relationships—all while her father was suffering from a terrible illness that took a devastating emotional and financial toll on Lakesha and her family.
“Her tenacity to succeed is an inspiration to her young siblings and other people like me who know what her family has experienced the last several years with her father being terminally ill,” said Tynetta Magruder, Lakesha’s Youth Mentor/Advocate in the Morris/Sussex Youth Advocate Program.
The passing of her father in January 2015 was “the most painful thing I have ever experienced,” Lakesha wrote in her scholarship application letter. “I never expected to be so deeply affected.”
“Lakesha has worked diligently to be successful and a model citizen, despite experiencing tremendous personal loss due to her father’s death earlier this year,” Tyretta said. Lakesha's desire to teach remains strong as she returns to Kean University this fall. As she shared in her letter, “I am still deeply passionate about helping to shape the next generation of young minds.”
Samuel Brady still remembers the report his family once received about him. “When I was little, they told us that I would never function in society, never speak, was low functioning, was most likely mentally retarded and would end up in a home,” Sam wrote in his YAP scholarship application letter. He and his mother proved the “experts” wrong.
“My mother never gave up,” Sam wrote. Sam didn’t give up either. “I speak, I took regular ed classes and I was in the National Honor Society,” he said.
For the past two years Sam (who is diagnosed with Asperger’s), Debra Brewster (Mobile Therapist with YAP’s Pike County PA Program), and Sam’s mother have worked together. His social/peer interactions have greatly improved and plans for his new life as a college student are underway.
“Sam is extremely bright and has always done well academically,” Debra said. He was accepted by Marywood University in Scranton, PA and will begin classes in Fall, 2015.
Sam’s mother and Debra believe college will help Sam grow socially as well as academically. Sam agrees. “I truly believe given the chance to go to college and get myself more independent will make all the difference,” he wrote.
With the full support of Sam’s mother, Debra will continue as his Mobile Therapist while he attends college. Both are confident that he will succeed. “I have to believe that the same way my Mom and Debbie believe in me,” Sam wrote.
At age 16 Marie White has already experienced amazing success as well as many challenges. She doubled up on her high school classes so she could graduate early. She currently holds two jobs and has been accepted by two colleges.
“Some people say it’s exciting for a 16-year-old to graduate high school, but I’m ready for the next big thing,” Marie wrote in her YAP scholarship application essay. She will soon head off to Monroe Community College to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Jenliee (Jenny) Pollan, YAP Advocate, has worked with Marie since April 2015. She describes Marie as “intelligent, creative, funny and hardworking.” Marie’s job supervisors describe her as “organized, reliable and diligent in her work.”
“Jenny taught me that every obstacle is an excuse to keep going,” Marie wrote. Marie’s plan is to work hard to be successful so that she can give back to the community. “If I can help society, then it will pass on,” Marie said.
William is a three-time YAP scholarship winner who is entering his third year at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA. “YAP has helped me though out my life,” William wrote in June 2015. He has struggled with--and overcome--many obstacles over the years, including social and organizational issues. He feels much more relaxed and organized now. A group of fellow students with similar interests provides him with ongoing support and friendship as he pursues a degree in biological sciences.
YAP and our latest scholarship winner have had a long, productive relationship, engaged in support services in school and the community since Morgan was 8 years old. Now, YAP is able to contribute to this high school graduate's continuing education as she prepares to enter college.
Morgan has numerous physical conditions and disabilities that have presented significant challenges in her desire to be self-sufficient. "Morgan has overcome a number of physical and psychological barriers," says Mobile Therapist Jennifer Swanson. "She is now able to manage a variety of daily tasks on her own."
Living on a college campus will give her the opportunity to further increase her independence. Morgan is enrolled in Career and Life Studies, an innovative inclusive program at Millersville University that provides support to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Because it is a new program, it is not yet eligible for federal or state grant funding, and YAP's scholarship will provide crucial financial assistance to Morgan's family.
We wish Morgan the best in her new venture and are confident she will continue to succeed.
“There is more to me than the hardships I have faced-whether being left homeless by my mother, being in foster care, or raising my son alone,” Monica Self wrote in her application letter for a YAP Endowment Fund scholarship. “I am exceptional because I am a survivor, and I plan to use the challenges I have faced to help others survive theirs.”
Monica is also determined to give her son Tripp the stable, nurturing home that has been out of reach for most of her own life. She was age 14 when Tripp was born and his 19-year-old father was in jail. With free daycare provided by the Teen Parent Program, she managed to finish her freshman year of high school. When summer came, Tripp’s father left his family and was never heard from again.
The foster care system, where Monica and Tripp have lived together, is an interim step in her life plan. “Now I do not have to worry about how I’m going to feed my son, or where I can lay him safely to sleep at night,” she said. “I am not saying that foster care is easy- it’s not. But that is where YAP comes in.”
Monica recalled that constant moving and starting over had made her stop connecting with people. She credits Liz, her YAP Advocate with helping her overcome feelings of being lost and alienated. Liz is also helping Monica, who has consistently been a high school honor student, pursue her goal of a college degree in social work.
“YAP made being a “case number” in foster care so much easier and Liz and I have a great bond,” Monica said. “I want to be able to offer kids in my shoes the same guidance that Liz offered me.”
Brianna, a youth from Morris/Sussex County NJ is the our latest endowment fund scholarship recipient. She suffered many losses at a young age, but found a forever family when she was adopted at age 12. Through participation in YAP's behavioral health counseling services, she has gained insight into her past experiences, learned to process her losses, and built coping skills.
"YAP has been a never ending source of strength for me and my family," Brianna said. "I have been given the courage to go after areas in education that I may not have considered before."
This fall, she plans to attend Sussex County Community College and explore her interests in criminal justice and forensic science.
Counselor Kristine Craudell has seen Brianna grow into a mature and capable young women. "It is because of her strengths, perseverance, and her ability to recognize when she needs support that I believe she will succeed and build positive outcomes throughout her life."
Congratulations to Nicholas Barr, a 3-time scholarship recipient of the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education. Nicholas, a graduate of YAP's Mercer County PA program, attends Robert Morris University and is pursuing a BSBA in Business Administration and Accounting. He is on track to graduate in 2016.
Read about Nicholas' story from his previous awards and see a video of his reflections on his time with YAP here.
We're so glad Nick has stayed in touch and has even taken time to visit his former YAP program and speak to the current youth there.
Midway through her senior year of high school, Breonna was on the verge of being kicked out of school for poor attendance and failing grades. Staff from Allegheny County YAP’s Truancy Intervention Program met with Breonna, her mother, and the school to make a plan to get Breonna back on track for graduation.
Initially, Breonna struggled with her commitment to attending meetings and keeping up with the stringent guidelines required to make up lost credits and finish the school year. YAP taught Breonna organization techniques that she incorporated into her study and work habits. Together, they developed grade charts, calendars, and goal reviews to track her credit recovery progress.
Breonna liked her school and was determined to graduate. With support, she was able to keep up with current class assignments, attend twice weekly meetings with YAP staff, attend school on Saturday mornings, and finish credit recovery for past incomplete work.
Breonna’s mother was an enormous support to her daughter, fiercely advocating for her at school meetings while enforcing consequences at home like not ordering Breonna’s prom dress until the credit recovery was complete. She was so inspired by her daughter’s commitment to graduating, she enrolled in evening classes herself so she could finish requirements for her own diploma.
Breonna graduated on time with the rest of her class. Just a few days later, her mother received her own high school diploma!
In a thank you letter to her advocate, Breonna reflects on her senior year: “I wouldn’t have made it through the year and probably wouldn’t have graduated if it wasn’t for your help.”
Although discharged from YAP services, she has stayed in touch with the program. She was recently awarded a scholarship from the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education. Breonna remains committed to her education, and in May she graduated from Bella Capelli Academy with a certification in Cosmetology. Next, she plans to enroll in business classes at a local community college to learn about the business side of running full-service hair salon.
An engineering student at the University of Houston, Michael is determined to be the first person in his family to obtain a college degree.
His keen interest in how things work was evident at age six when within 30 minutes of receiving a brand new bike, he had completely dismantled it!
He credits his Advocate, Anthony, with helping him to focus on life goals. “He constantly asked me where I wanted to go in life and am I happy where I am now,” he said. “Patterns are not so difficult to break as long as you have a positive influence and determination.”
Congratulations, Michael, and good luck!
Congratulations to Anthony, a recent scholarship recipient. Anthony attends Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA and plans to use his award toward the purchase of books for the Spring semester.
When Anthony became involved in YAP, he was barely existing due to past abuse, living in a household where drugs and drug dealing were commonplace and trauma was reinforced on a daily basis.
Through therapy, Anthony slowly began to trust the world again and opened himself up to building healthy relationships with others. He began to thrive in school and opened up to teachers and other students, building protective factors that have led him to increased resiliency.
These trusting relationships became a turning point for Anthony. "I was on the brink of suicide, and she [the counselor] reached out to me in ways no one ever did or even tried to," he said. "I confided in her things that I wouldn't even dare to share."
Anthony has a solid relationship with a girl he met at work. He is attending Northampton Community College majoring in Criminal Justice and is maintaining a 3.4 GPA. Anthony was recently promoted to customer service at work due to his ability to interact with customers in a positive manner.
"Anthony is the essence of resiliency," said Deanna Moerer, project director. "He has overcome insurmountable odds and has moved on to college and is holding down a job. I have no doubt that Anthony will be successful in fulfilling his goals."
Ciera, a young mother and YAP alumnus from Las Vegas, was recently awarded a scholarship from YAP's Endowment Fund. She understands that education is key to creating a bright future for herself and her daughter and will soon begin college studies in the field of Nursing.
When Ciera came to YAP, education was not a priority in her life. "Before YAP, my life was a series of nightmares. I was an addict, with a long history of abusive relationships and legal trouble. I dropped out of school for my seventh, eighth, and ninth grade years. I lost all hopes of graduating," she stated.
With the help of her advocate, she was able to enroll in a school more suited for her learning style. She applied herself to her studies and was able to graduate high school on time. Her next goal is to become a Registered Nurse.
"The medical field is right for me because I care for people and can think in a stressful situation," said Ciera. "I get part of my inspiration from my mom, a committed nurse of 35 years. My mom has taught me so much."
"Ciera showed tremendous personal growth during her time with YAP," said Program Director Daisy Hernandez. "She has shown that education is a priority regardless of any obstacles that came from being a young parent. She took the initiative to prepare for her future."
Joe came to YAP during a tumultuous time for his family, when New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services involvement led to the removal of his stepfather from their home. His YAP Advocate, Kevin, provided support and encouragement during that stressful time and helped Joe begin planning for his future.
During the planning process, it became apparent that Joe needed a job and also wanted to pursue his education. His Advocate worked with him to find a job that reflected his interests and created opportunities for Joe to explore college and the field of study that piqued his interest the most.
Through YAP's Supported Work program, Joe was able to obtain employment at a local fishing dock. "Although it was only a couple of hours a week and earned me a small amount of money, it still taught me the value of a dollar and hard work," Joe said. "As a high school freshman, it gave me a step ahead in work experience and helped me build my resume for future employment opportunities."
Joe and his Advocate spent hours in the local library, completing online SAT practice courses to prepare for college entrance exams. But the library also gave Joe the opportunity to research careers and colleges and identify his interests. "It was at that library that I decided I wanted to be a Chemical Engineer. At that age, hardly anyone knows what they want to do for the rest of their life. I was lucky to be able to discover so young what my calling is and YAP helped me do that."
Next month, Joe will begin classes at Rowan University, majoring in Chemical Engineering with the hopes of becoming a New Fuel Researcher after graduation. "My main goal is to make a difference in the world and the environment, whether it be discovering a new fuel source or making an old one more efficient and less harmful to the environment," he said.
Joe's story is a great illustration of YAP's focus of connecting youth with education and employment and how those connections can lead to a brighter future for our youth and families, and in this case, our earth.
In the fall, Lakesha will begin her senior year at Kean University studying Education. The Tom Jeffers Youth Endowment Fund for Continuing Education is pleased to award Lakesha a third scholarship toward her studies there.
Lakesha is a Dean's list student with a 3.5 GPA. "Paying for college for me is more difficult than maintaining good grades," Lakesha says. "Your assistance helped me so much."
Lakesha has recently taken leadership roles in several student-run organizations and continues to pursue a career in K-12 education.
Her former advocate, Tynetta, says, "She is almost at the finish line and I am very proud of Lakesha and the work that she has done in being a model student and leader."
Congratulations to Greta, a graduate of our Adams County, PA program and YAP's newest scholarship recipient. This is her second award through the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education. Greta studies at Penn State, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Over the summer, she will be working as an Advocate for the Adams County office, supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities.
"YAP has done so much for me over the years, not only with scholarships but also through constructive therapy," Greta says. "[My advocate] helped me to develop essential problem-solving skills, the ability to advocate for myself, a better relationship with my family and social skills for communicating with others." In the fall, she will begin her junior year. "I am enthusiastic about next semester's courses as well as those in my later years of college," she says. "I plan to work hard to succeed in all of them."
Caroline has been accepted to the College of Southern Nevada and will begin classes in the fall of 2014. Her excitement to begin her education has led her to enroll in a cosmetology school over the summer, while waiting for the fall semester of college to begin. Funding through YAP's Work Investment Act (WIA) Program has covered her tuition and the Endowment Fund scholarship will enable her to purchase school-related supplies like a make-up kit and clothing.
Since her discharge from a detention facility, YAP has worked with Caroline on her career goal to become a cosmetologist by connecting her with employment and educational opportunities. Program Director Nyeri Richards says, "Caroline has completed our 9-week work readiness course earlier than the normal time allotted. She has continuously searched for employment and ways to better her life."
Caroline cannot wait for her classes to start. "I am now drug-free, enrolled in college," she says. "I do not want to waste any more time... I have gotten my stuff together and it is now time to get serious and start my new life!"
In one year, a lot can happen.
Karen* fled across the country with her mother and younger siblings to escape a highly unsafe domestic violence situation. Once in their new state, her family moved into a homeless shelter. Shortly thereafter, a younger sibling was diagnosed with and treated for cancer. Then she and her family became homeless.
Karen worked very hard to keep it together. She helped to care for her siblings while her mother was at the hospital. She attended school whenever she could obtain transportation and maintained very good grades. But the intense strain the young 15 year old was under took its toll.
“I kept a lot of things bottled up inside and it soon got out of hand,” she said.
Karen was able to get help, however, through a YAP program where she met Community Living Specialist (CLS) Crystal Williams. Karen received counseling from Crystal, was connected with vital community resources that helped with concrete needs such as housing and food, and was encouraged to engage in activities that both revealed her potential and provided positive outlets for her stress. More
*not the real name of the young person to protect her confidentiality
After his high school graduation, Baron joined the workforce and currently is employed as a Material Control Technician in a machine shop. He now is interested in pursuing further education. "I have matured during the past two years, and now wish to pursue the aspirations of mine, which had remained dormant until I regained the courage to live and love life," he says. Baron plans to attend Mercyhurst University in the fall, majoring in Psychology.
Trish Carmo, former director of YAP's Erie County PA program recounts, "Baron is one of the brightest young men I have ever worked with and I was disappointed to hear he did not go on straight to college after high school. I am thrilled to hear he has decided to finally pursue his higher education."
Nicholas just concluded his sophomore year at Robert Morris University. He is majoring in Accounting and minoring in Business Management. This is his second scholarship through the Youth Endowment Fund.
Being in the Youth Advocate Program has helped me to where I am today... I constantly find myself applying the techniques I was taught. I have been out of the program almost seven years," Nicholas says. "The support I continue to receive from the program and the endowment fund are much more than I could have ever imagined it to be."
A scholarship has been awarded to Pennsylvania high school senior Theresa S., who participated in YAP's school-based Project One-to-Won program.
Beth Fisher, who worked closely with Theresa says, "Her constant effort and never-dying spirit has allowed her to work through many personal issues and secure a post-secondary education."
Theresa reflects, "Now my future is looking brighter every day. I have confidence in myself that I never knew I possessed. I am now excited and proud to finally graduate and discover myself in ways I never could without the support of Beth and multiple other members of [Project One-to-Won]. I am especially looking forward to attending Findlay University, where I plan on double majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and equestrian studies. Thank you for not giving up on me, and thanks for showing me that life can only be limited through your own beliefs and choices."
Rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania is the backdrop for love, loss and a new start in the life of Beverly Stevanus.
“Beverly is phenomenal," says YAP’s Behavioral Health Specialist Lindsay Frampton. “Her story tells you why.”
In November 2011, Beverly lost her husband in a tragic car accident. She was left to mourn with her two young sons in an old farmhouse on a lonely road in an isolated area. Consumed by grief, Beverly was overwhelmed by her younger son’s major behavioral issues both in and out of school. She also struggled with her own health problems and the many challenges of rural life in a low-income community.
Beverly was still traveling a rough road of despair when she met Lindsay in August 2012. YAP’s Somerset County Program accepts “self referrals” and Beverly reached out for help. Lindsay and Beverly worked together in the home setting, finding ways to help manage her son’s behavioral issues. YAP’s school and community work augmented in-home services to address multiple needs. More
Eugene is a Chicago YAP graduate and freshman at Northern Illinois University where he is majoring in Business.
Eugene was referred to YAP in 2010 and worked with Advocate Byron Steele. Eugene was 1 of 5 boys that Byron worked with on Chicago’s Southside at the time.
Eugene was surviving some serious challenges at the time. He lived with his grandmother in Roseland, a Chicago Southside neighborhood known for both poverty and violence. His grandmother’s house was over-crowded, with 3 generations living in a single-family dwelling.
“She did the best she could but there was 8 of us. It was hard,” says Eugene.
“Eugene immediately set himself apart from the group, and made sure that I understood the path he was on was a result of survival skills and not the path he wanted for his life” says Byron. More
This is Latifa's second award from the Youth Endowment Fund. She is studying Biological Science at Northampton Community College with the goal of becoming a Physician Assistant or Physical Therapist. More
YAP has helped me become who I am today
YAP has helped me become who I am today by helping me cope with my Autism but not just that. They have also helped me embrace my inner self such as how smart I am and how much I can achieve. There was a time that I did not known myself and wanted to take my life. YAP helped me realize my true potential and also helped me realize that taking my life was not the way to deal with my problems. It's the worst way to deal with your problems. They helped me with my anger problems while if it was not for them I might not be here right now. There were quite a few therapists I had and they showed me a lot and taught me a lot. More
I want to tell you about how participating in the YAP program and having Roger as a mentor has had significant impact in my life.
I was on probation and Williamson County suggested to my mom that I should have a mentor, a male role model who was outside the family. During my time on probation having a mentor was a helpful thing. I have to admit that, at first, I was skeptical and shy. I didn't want a mentor mainly because I was going to be off probation after six months and I was tired of having people just leave me after knowing me for a few months. Roger came into my house that first day and just sat and talked with me. He convinced me on that day that it might not be a bad thing, having a mentor that is. So I went along with the program and just hung out with him and talked. But, little did I know, I had just made a friend that would stick with me for as long as I needed him to. Whether it was advice on my family or my anger or any other one of my problems, Roger was there. I can honestly say that today I am a better person because of that friendship. My fuse has grown along with my tolerance and my ability to stay calm. More
I have some really interesting goals, when it comes to my future. I want to become a well-known change agent in the world. I want to graduate with my associate's degree in human services and move on to receive my bachelors in psychology. I have already written my own Life Skills curriculum based on my personal experiences in the system. More
The Youth Advocate Program was a big part of my elementary and middle school life. I began misbehaving in school. I then started going to school with a wrapround on a daily basis. They worked one on one with me to better myself in school. Also at this time I was diagnosed with ADHD and found out that the two leading medications to treat ADHD and ADD would not help me because I was allergic to them.
Being in the program, I learned many things and techniques on how to manage my anger and people skills. They helped me by taking me outside my comfort zones at times to introduce me to others. During these times, they would let me go and watch me closely to see if I would do what they told me. If I did not they would call me over and tell me what I did wrong, then send me back out to try to make friends again. More
I have learned many things while in the Youth Advocate Program (YAP). I could not even begin to fathom where I would be without the YAP. The YAP has helped me tremendously, whether it was making me realize how important school is, how to be independent, how to be professional and most importantly why you should give back to the community. The YAP has helped me to find out who I was in life.
If it was not for the YAP I would be most likely still be getting bad grades and not caring about anything. YAP helped me to realize that I will not get anywhere without a good education. Being disrespectful to teachers who are trying to help me will only hurt me. YAP has showed me the Importance of respect. More
I am a mother of two beautiful children, Daishanae, my daughter is six-years old and my son Anthony is five-months. I have taken care of my children on my own. It hasn't been easy as I have not earned much money during my employment history.
When I lost my last job I fell into hard times, but managed to keep my children well. As a result, I had to move in with a girl-friend of many years. Although I am grateful she took me and the children in, we live in the living room of a one bedroom apartment. This situation made me realize I need to do more for myself and my children. More