Adams County, Colo. -- When Daniela Ozaeta asked Empire Beauty School in Thornton, Colo. to support her efforts to help a girl healing from trauma associated with the loss of her sister, the school’s management and students were all in. Ozaeta is an Advocate with Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. in Adams County.
YAP Advocates are paid mentors who serve individuals and families with complex needs. YAP partners with Adams County Department of Human Services to support individuals dealing with trauma and difficult life challenges.
For five years, Emma, now 12, and her mother have been struggling to cope with pain from losing Emma’s sister and moving on with their lives. When she met them in early fall, Ozaeta found that Emma shared a room with her sister and her sister’s part of the room was still intact. Both the 12-year-old and her mother were hesitant to make any changes, even small ones, in their own lives.
“Since she lost her sister, Emma wouldn’t allow anyone to comb or brush her hair. It grew longer and became more matted,” said Adams County Program Director Danielle Brook. “Kids at school were teasing and bullying her, and Daniela really wanted to help.”
Over the past few months, Ozaeta has been working with the family, empowering them with life tools to help them through their grief. She has been connecting them to resources to help with practical matters associated with day-to-day living.
In time, Emma began to trust Ozaeta and agreed to join her to consult with salons on whether it would be possible to save her hair.
“Most salons said it would be impossible to save her hair; that she would have to have it all cut off,” Brook said. “Daniela offered to cut her own hair exactly how Emma would have hers cut if that would make her feel better.”
Then a couple weeks ago, Ozaeta found a salon that was willing to put in the time and care necessary to save Emma’s hair. The deep conditioning alone took five hours. Empire Beauty School even agreed to donate the services and include a free manicure to complete the 12-year-old’s makeover.
“Emma ended up with a shoulder-length hair cut that she can now easily manage. She said it was everything she’d hoped for,” Brook said.
The next day, Ozaeta went a step further. Keeping the promise that she’d made a few weeks earlier, she cut her hair the same length as Emma’s.
“We want to thank and recognize Empire Beauty School,” Brook said. "We are so honored to have Daniela on the YAP team, and we are especially proud of Emma for taking a big step in her grief, healing and emotional growth.”
Recruited from the neighborhoods of the individuals they serve, YAP Advocates are mentors and more who empower youth and families with individualized toolkits that help them to identify, nurture and share their strengths. YAP serves 19,000 young people and families in 23 states and the District of Columbia. YAP’s Advocate mentors complete a nine-course accredited curriculum and work under the supervision of a director. Collaborating with their teammates, these paid mentors also connect individuals and families they serve with community resources to reinforce their foundation.