Oct. 21, 2019 – It takes a village to support youth in their communities as an alternative to incarceration and institutionalization. That’s why Maryland-DC Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. asked Baltimore Chef Ray “Ziggy” Davis, owner of Flight American Fusion Restaurant & Bar, to keynote their 5th Community Banquet, Oct. 25, (dinner program, 5:15 pm – 7:15 pm). An alternative to youth incarceration and out-of-home placement, YAP relies on Davis and other employers and community organizations to provide resources that become tools to help young people who face complex challenges rebuild their lives.
“As a YAP Supported Work partner, Ray has given many young people in our program who face barriers to employment a chance for on-the-job training and work experience,” said YAP Regional Director Craig Jernigan. “The unique YAP alternative-to-youth-incarceration-model relies on all kinds of neighborhood businesses and community partners to help us provide individualized services that empower youth and families with resources to rebuild and reinforce their foundation.”
Founded 44-years ago, YAP serves 20,000 youth and families in 100 communities in 28 states and the District of Columbia. A nonprofit partner to youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, developmental disabilities/autism, education, and workforce readiness systems, YAP serves individuals who face incarceration and out-of-home placement or other complex life circumstances. YAP’s neighborhood-based Advocates provide strength-based, individualized mentoring and empower youth and their parents/guardians to build toolkits that include connections to accessible resources that help them succeed personally and professionally. Over the past year, Maryland-DC YAP has also applied its unique wraparound model to empower men and women returning from prison – many who entered the adult system as youth – with tools to reconstruct their lives.
The banquet is YAP’s opportunity to celebrate the progress of all program participants, staff and partners. It will also highlight young people YAP served through its partnership with Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) who recently received the YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship, one of the tools available to program participants and their families.
At age 18, Osman appreciates the value of YAP’s commitment to giving youth like him second chances.
“I was introduced to the YAP program because I was arrested in February of 2019,” he explained. “I learned my lesson from my mistake, and from the outcome of my situation I was awarded a second chance to better myself and I’m gladly taking advantage of that. And with my mentor I know everything will be ok.”
Osman quickly began retooling his life after meeting with his YAP Advocate mentor Brandon Miler.
“Since I’ve been in this program, they have offered me all their resources -- like someone to talk to or if I would like to visit their office to study, and/or if I may need help with my work,” he explained. “This program is also willing to help me one hundred percent to find and pursue my career after I graduate.”
Osman is completing his first year at Prince George’s Community College. “I hope to gain my credits in two years then graduate with an associate degree. After I do that, I plan to go on to a four-year college and pursue my social work career.
Earlier this year, Osman learned he is one of YAP’s 2019 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship recipients. He opted to apply his $1,000 award to the purchase of a laptop computer. “I have a computer at home but cannot take this computer anywhere, not even school. As soon as you unplug it from the charger, it turns off. “So, if awarded this scholarship, it would be so helpful and much appreciated,” he wrote in his scholarship application essay.
One of four children of parents who immigrated with their children from Sierra Leone, Osman plans to make life better for his entire family.
“I wish to be independent and living on my own by the time I am 24- years-old,” he explained. “I also wish to be able to help both of my parents financially by the time I am 27. I just want a career that I would be happy to go to and would allow me to take care of my future family.”
A year has made a lifetime of difference for Erick, a Montgomery Community College freshman. Less than 12 months ago, he was headed in an entirely different direction.
“My case manager believed the program would help deter me from any future trouble that may present itself,” he said.
YAP Advocate mentor Patrick Nowmonoh served as a role model and guide, empowering Erick with skills to identify his strengths and talents and connecting him with tools to help him further develop his interests.
“Having someone that will try to sway me in the right direction while my mind was playing devil’s advocate was the type of guidance that if I had earlier on could have kept me from making a majority of the mistakes in my past,” Erick said.
Nowmonoh told Erick that among the resources available to YAP youth and families is the $1,000 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship. In his application essay, Erick wrote: “To start, my mother is our sole provider at the moment due to my father being in jail. It would better our financial standings and
make college more financially attainable for me. I would be able to afford supplies in order to start my college journey off on the right foot and be able to remove the financial stress off of my shoulders.”
Erick received the YAP scholarship earlier this year and is well on his way to achieving his goal.
“Being able to afford college would mean I would be the first in my family to attend which would give me the opportunity to lead by example,” he explained in his scholarship application. “I would be able to become the older brother mentor and give someone else the same privilege I had with this program.”
Jacquwan is a first-year student at Prince George’s Community College, where he is studying business management in pursuit of a career in the music industry. When he’s not studying or exploring multiple genres of music, Jacquwan is playing basketball or participating in church activities. About a year ago, he faced the possibility of going down a very different path.
“I lost my father who played an integral role in my life. My father always instilled in me to strive for greatness and be accountable for the decisions I make in my life,” he explained. “Unfortunately, I encountered an incident that warranted me to be on probation.”
Jacquwan’s YAP Advocate mentor Marcus Bundle empowered him with tools to reinforce the cracks in his foundation. Now Jacquwan says he has “accountability, discipline, and obedience.” Before his first semester, Jacquwan learned that he had one more YAP tool to add to his toolbox – the $1,000 YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund Scholarship, which he opted to use for a laptop computer.
“It will alleviate some of the pressure with having to complete assignments at school or in the library within a certain window of time. Having my own personal laptop will allow me the opportunity to research data for school and explore various employment vacancies,” he explained.
Through YAP, Jacquwan is working through his pain and trauma of his loss and the decision that took him off course and led him to YAP.
“These two stressful experiences in my life have encouraged me to become more aware of the principles in which my father instilled in me,” he said. “I presently assume more responsibilities as a young man supporting his family.”
For more information on YAP, please visit yapinc.org.