Washington, D.C. (Feb. 7, 2019) -- When Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. got the chance to adapt its successful youth employment program to help slightly older recently incarcerated men, there was no hesitation. For 44 years, YAP has partnered with youth justice and social services systems to provide young people with opportunities to develop and contribute so that communities have safe, proven, effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement.
In partnership with Safer Stronger DC Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement last week, YAP hosted a graduation ceremony for 24 Pathways Ambassadors. The graduates, men who recently returned to the District after being incarcerated, had just completed the District’s nine-week Pathways program. Pathways is part of the Safer Stronger DC office, opened in 2017 by Washington DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser to provide community-based, public health programs as part of a holistic approach to preventing violence. Pathways’ goal is to decrease the likelihood of criminal justice involvement and improve employment, education, workforce development, health and wellness, and housing stability outcomes for individuals who have been arrested for violent offenses, specifically gun charges. Program participants are unemployed individuals ages 18-35 who are disconnected from supports and services and have been identified by government agencies and credible community sources as being seriously at risk for participating in or being victims of violence. Pathways also serves participants’ family members.
“While individuals YAP serves through Pathways are 18 to 35-year-olds, rather than the young people ages 14 through age 21 enrolled in YAP’s traditional programs, the needs are comparable,” said YAP Washington D.C.-Baltimore Regional Director Craig Jernigan. “With YAP’s no reject, no eject policy and our commitment to empowering those we serve with tools that contribute to individual and community safety, partnering with the Mayor’s office for the Pathways program is the kind of opportunity we welcome.”
In serving Pathways participants, YAP leans on lessons from YAPWORX, a job skills resource that the organization’s neighborhood-based Advocate mentors offer to many YAP-enrolled youth. YAP provides Pathways program participants with real-world work experiences, learning opportunities and decision-making strategies, and connects them with potential employers.
Through another partnership with the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), YAP connects Pathways participants with Credible Messengers, paid advocates who also were formerly incarcerated. The Credible Messengers provide intensive mentoring and comprehensive culturally-competent personalized support services to address the men’s social, emotional individual and family challenges.
The recent Pathways Ambassadors graduates will soon apply tools from their YAP toolkits in their new roles as temporary employees with DC government. With support from the relationships and contacts they developed during the Pathways program, they’ll be seeking more long-term training, education and job opportunities.
YAP serves 100 communities in 23 states and the District of Columbia. In a John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center study of 1,851 justice-involved young people, 95 percent remained out of placement -- at home, in their communities -- six to 12 months after completing YAP’s programs.