Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) has affected the lives of many people, including that of SPC Victor of the United States Army. That’s why, on the eve of his deployment, SPC Victor chose to spend some time speaking with kids involved in YAP. And as is customary with the US Army, he would not do it alone. On February 14, 2014, the YAP Essex/Union County offices were honored by members of Unit 928 of the United States Army, who paid a visit to our local office in Newark, NJ.
Sgt. Pilozo, SPC Victor, SPC Cano and PFC Perez sat down with a group of six young men and their Advocates (paid mentors from the same neighborhoods as the youth). They answered questions about the challenges they faced growing up, how they overcame those challenges, and what actions they took to improve their life’s opportunities. While they acknowledged not everyone finds their path or purpose through the military, they did encourage everyone to believe they are capable of amazing things. They spoke to the group about their own needs growing up and challenged them to set high goals for themselves and to truly believe they are capable of reaching them as long as they stay focused and determined.
YAP is especially important to SPC Victor, a former foster parent who worked with YAP in the past. His previous work with YAP inspired him to want to give back. When given the opportunity, he reached out to April Robinson, a Foster Parent Support Specialist at YAP, and got to work setting up the event. He was able to enlist the help of others in his unit who also wished to talk about their own personal stories growing up and wanted to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Though SPC Victor’s time with the group was invaluable, SPC Victor also wanted to give more and made a donation to the YAP Essex/Union office in order to further impact the lives of YAP kids. This donation will go towards YAP’s mission of improving local communities by enhancing the lives of youth in those communities.
Unit 928 also hopes to make this more than just a one-time event. Even though they are in the process of being deployed, they have already started making plans to come back to the office after they have returned from their deployment. They also will be establishing a letter exchange program with the young men they met at YAP to ensure the youth are making strides in reaching their goals as much as to be positive supports for them, regardless of the distance. This tremendous display of dedication to our youth and desire to see positive change illustrates how their mission is similar to that of YAP’s – to strengthen communities, one biography at a time.