Scholarship Supports Participants in Alternative to Youth Incarceration/Residential Placement Programs - Article Details

Scholarship Supports Participants in Alternative to Youth Incarceration/Residential Placement Programs

Tom Jeffers’ Vision when he founded Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. 45 years ago was to provide safe and effective alternatives to youth incarceration and residential child welfare placements. YAP’s community-based youth and family services model delivers neighborhood-based Advocates who are trained to empower participants with skills to identify their strengths, accessible rehabilitative tools needed to achieve their goals, and resources to meet their basic needs. YAP founder Tom Jeffers established the Endowment Fund Scholarship in 2008 as a way to continue program support by helping participants with post-secondary education and or training. In 2015, shortly before Jeffers’ death, in recognition of their founders’ vision, YAP leaders established the scholarship in his name. Today, the scholarship endowment continues to be funded primarily by employee payroll deductions and serves as one of the tools available to YAP program participants and their families as and after they receive services. The scholarship is a $1,000 award that can be received in the form of a laptop computer or applied to tuition, fees, or job training costs and can be renewed annually with a new application. The 2020 scholarship recipients’ stories represent the diversity of YAP’s community-based programs and the youth and families served throughout the U.S.


Serafina Rosario participated in YAP’s Camden County, NJ Life Skills Program. She opted to receive her $1,000 scholarship in the form of a laptop computer, which she uses as she pursues a degree in social work at Camden County College.  Serafina’s Casa worker connected her to YAP when she was 17 after multiple foster family and group home placements. At the time, Serafina believed what she had heard throughout her adolescence -- that she would never amount to anything and would end up dead or in jail before becoming an adult. Serafina said her YAP Life skills Advocate, Delfina, connected her to mental health services, a job, an apartment and the scholarship. “I hope to take my life story and be an influence on those who struggle the way I did,” she said.


Karen Barrett received her second Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship in January. A caregiver of a program participant in Ocean County NJ, Karen is working to complete her PhD dissertation at Grand Canyon University. She said YAP gave her skills to better advocate for her family member while also pursuing her own goals. Karen’s hope is to get a full-time faculty position. “Throughout our relationship, Ms. Barrett has displayed consistency and determination to obtain the best possible service for not only herself but for her family,” said her YAP Advocate Stephanie Guzman. “Ms. Barrett displays compassion and demonstrates a great sense of support for her family. [Her] relentless motivation, drive, and dedication is what makes her exceptional.”


When Daniel Miller, a participant in Lebanon, PA YAP’s Respite Assistance program, applied for his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship, he was already taking a Spanish class as a continuing education student at Lebanon Valley College at Annville. “This would help me pay for tuition to attend higher education,” Daniel wrote in his application letter. “I would like to communicate with other people that speak Spanish.” Daniell’s plan is to expand his education in Spanish and study music theory at Penn State Harrisburg. “Daniel is positive, friendly and willing to take on new endeavors,” said YAP Behavioral Health Respite Services Director Deidra Deiter. “With his parent’s assistance, Daniel started a social support group called Common Connections. This group is open to community members who are diagnosed with an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder. Daniel has the ability to make a real difference in the world,” said Service Access & Management, Inc. Development Disabilities Support Coordinator Jocelyn Garcia.


Lamique Stephen was a participant in YAP’s Carbon/Monroe Counties (PA) school-based program at Pocono Mountain West High School. “I was going through some family issues at home… It took me a while to be vocal about my feelings [be]cause I felt like nobody could help me but me,” he said. During his freshman college year at Empire State University, Lamique earned at 3.5 grade point average. He also got involved in the LGBTQ and Black student groups. “I met so many wonderful & intelligent individuals while being in those groups. I thought I knew myself but college brought me back all the way to square one. I knew the high school me,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter. “I’m an adult now trying to get to know myself again.” Lamique said because of financial challenges, he left college during his second semester. “I joined the Navy and went to Boot Camp April 20th.” He said things were going well until he got sick and had to return home. He moved to Atlanta where he applied to Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, getting accepted at both schools. “I decided to go to Clark because they have a fashion major. I plan on majoring in fashion merchandising and have a minor in psychology. I’m so thankful God has giving me another chance.” Lamique opted to have his scholarship in the form of a computer where he can study and practice fashion designing.


A former participant in Camden County, NJ YAP’s Life Skills program, 19-year-old Lianne Vargas received a Tom Jeffers scholarship to attend Empire Beauty School. "At the age of 15, I was removed from my home and placed into foster care. This was the most traumatic event that I ever experienced,” she wrote in her scholarship application letter. "As a child I was home schooled... I didn't have a social life and I felt like I was secluded from the world. My home experience was the only way I knew how to live. Now that I'm older I realized that there is much more to the world than my childhood experience. This led me to living independently.” Liane said her YAP life skills coach Delfina Morales empowered her to see and connect with her passion-- beauty and fashion, writing, "Once I finish Empire Beauty School, I hope to take my profession to another level. I dream of making connections in the fashion industry and becoming a personal make-up and hair stylist.” Lianne credits Delfina for helping her establish her independence. “I've learned so much more about independent living than I ever have with any other program. She assisted me with obtaining my vital documents. She helps me find a health provider in my neighborhood and assists me with making changes with my insurance provider. She linked me with resources in my community, such as food banks and social services. She took the time to study with me for my driver's permit and I passed... Working with Miss. Delfina is a life saver at this point in my life. The progress that I've made so far is unbelievable and I'm sure there is much more to come.”


Jordan Oldroyd participated in the Adams County, PA. YAPWorx DD (developmental disabilities) workforce development pilot. He graduated after four months of enthusiastically fully engaging in the program while helping other participants when they struggled with aspects of the curriculum. “The class helped me to figure out how to interview and questions to ask employers. I also participated in a mock interview at UW. The experience was good, and the interviewer liked me and was great,” Jordan said. “I also learned to dress for success. We looked through magazines and put together what we felt was the way to dress for success. We went to Community Aid and [YAP Program Director] Mr. Bob helped me get clothing to use for interviews and graduation,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter. Jordan would like to become a mechanic and had an opportunity in YAPWorx to meet with a local mechanic who served as an occupational advisor in the program. Jordan plans to apply what he learned from YAPWorx to apply for a position with Milheim Automotive. To prepare, he applied for the Tom Jeffers scholarship to participate in job training offered by Hiram G. Andrews Center, where he can live on campus. "I am glad I went through the program and [it] was a very good experience and has helped me. I now know it is not who you know — it is who you know that likes you...My goal is to get my secondary education at Hiram G Andrews, a school for those with disabilities — get a job as a mechanic — live in my own place and live my life.”


Antonio Wyche participated in Hillsborough County YAP after experiencing behavior struggles that led to school suspensions. “I had a problem with fighting. I had been suspended multiple times and kicked out of regular school,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter. “Since being in the program with my advocate Mr. Lundy, I transitioned back to regular education for high school. I have had no suspensions since the transition for any reason. I obtained my high school diploma May 2020. I am now enrolled at Hillsborough Community College pursuing a career in culinary arts.” Antonio plans to intern at a five-star restaurant in his Tampa Bay community. "Once I have gained experience, I plan to open my own restaurant and give back to the community that provided me with this opportunity.” With his scholarship, Antonio purchased books and other materials needed to complete his coursework. Antonio’s YAP Advocate Joseph Lundy speaks highly of him. “Because of YAP, its training and leadership, I was able to work with Antonio and allow him to grow into his full potential. I was able to uncover his hidden strengths and allow him to develop them.”


Bridger Adams’ hopes of beginning a culinary career in spring 2020 were cut short by the pandemic. He’d just completed Culinary Academy of Las Vegas with support from his first Tom Jeffers scholarship. Bridger quickly changed courses and applied for a second scholarship to begin online studies to start a pet sitting business. “My current aspirations and goals are to help me start my own pet sitting business and learn all I need to run a successful business,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter. “This young man never fails to amaze me in his ability to succeed in everything that he puts his mind to,” said Bridger’s YAP Advocate Vanessa Hassell. “With time on his hands he has researched other options and opportunities to strengthen his career path rather than get stagnant with regards to our current situations.”


A single mother raising three children, Paula Jo Lynch received a second Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship to apply towards completing her master’s degree in art therapy and clinical counseling. She is the parent of a former YAP participant. “I was extremely happy with the program,” Paula said. She wants to apply her degree to help people who are experiencing grief, healing from abuse, or suffering from PTSD. “I also have an interest in working with PTSD in other forms, such as working with veterans, especially in healing them near water, a proven technique which provides numerous benefits and outcomes,” she wrote in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund college application.


Mercy Owusu completed YAP’s Morris/Sussex, NJ program after experiencing the death of a friend. “Anytime someone told Mercy ‘You can’t,’ she went above and beyond everybody’s expectations. She has so much potential; I am excited to see where her life will take her,” said YAP therapist Michele Martino. With the help of the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship, Mercy is attending Fairleigh Dickinson University with the goal of becoming a social worker. “I still have my days where I hit adversity, but therapy has taught me to try to be strong instead of being defeated. As I continue, I will take these life lessons I was taught with me. This also has a lot to with why I was able to develop a passion for helping people,” she said. “I always wanted to help others, like so many along the way have helped me when I was struggling.” She will major in psychology with a social worker concentration and a minor in Special Education. In her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter, Mercy wrote: “I choose this path to work with teens and children like myself, whom may have had struggles where that they feel like they can't talk about things that are happening to them or don’t have the outlet to say what they are feeling in confidence and guide them in a way to change that.”


By the time she became a YAP participant, Aliyah Allen thought she’d never graduate high school. “I was in a rough patch. My grades were bad, my anxiety and depression got in the way of me completing school, and I was devastated,” she wrote in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application. Then she began working with YAP therapist Kenya Bell. “She has helped me realized that I have a full life ahead of me and I shouldn’t give up so easily. Even though it was hard, I pushed through and graduated 12th grade a whole semester early,” Aliyah wrote in her scholarship application letter, adding, “...that was the first time I was proud of something I accomplished since I was 9 years old. I'm currently 18 so it has been a while.” Kenya recommended Aliyah for the scholarship, describing how well she demonstrated throughout her participation in YAP her desire to push through her challenges and gain independence. Aliyah is attending Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), pursuing a degree in graphic design and animation. “Graduating college would be a dream come true. I would be a first-generation student. I want to make my parents proud,” she said. “I want to go to college not only to further my education but to further my journey in self-love and proving to myself that despite all my obstacles, I can still do it!”


Holly Phiefer is applying her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship as a transfer student to Maryville University from Sussex County Community College. “Holly always put in 100% into our work ... even when it was difficult to do. She currently finished her first year at community college and is transferring to Maryville University. Through Holly’s personal adversity and journey... she has chosen a degree in psychology to help others. Her determination is admirable, and I have no doubt that Holly will accomplish all her educational/career goals and more,” said YAP Therapist Michelle Matino, who advocated for Holly during her time with YAP and continues to do so today. Holly plans to complete a bachelor’s in forensic psychology and then pursue a doctorate degree. “I plan on either being a police psychologist or a psychologist in the correctional system. ...Everyone needs a support system,” she said, recalling the time she leaned on YAP as part of her support system. “I felt hopeless and like my life wasn't going anywhere important.” At the time, Holly was starting high school. She said she had few coping skills or tools to help process her “obsessive thoughts and daily struggles.” She said the experience gave her the confidence she needs. “It is hard work, but with the continuous support, I can do it a little easier. I could not recommend YAP more. The program and its staff are wonderful. Without YAP. I would not be able to function in life,” she said.


Anthony Burke got involved with YAP after he had a car accident that resulted in the death of his best friend. “My family experienced extreme expenses from my accident and the family income was diminished since my father was diagnosed over a year ago with pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung condition that has no cure presently,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. Anthony credits his YAP therapist Michelle Matino for helping him cope with his trauma. “Anthony has had a lot of major obstacles in the past year, but he has not let them deter him from his dream of finishing high school, going to college, and working in hotel management,” Michele said. Anthony applied for the Tom Jeffers scholarship to help him pay for books. “My goals right now are to attend college and get my degree in business management with a concentration in the hospitality and hotel management.”


From left: New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency Case Worker Nathan Young; Sierra Brown; and Sierra’s aunt, Shiamonia Bethune

A former participant in Vineland NJ YAP’s Life Skills program, Sierra Brown received a third Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship this year. She’s now a junior at Stockton University majoring in psychology with a mental health concentration. “Sierra is mature, and she is a winner, and she doesn’t quit. I believe, and can already see in her much success, and I think her college experience will only augment what already exists within her, which are her honesty and her humility,” said her case manager, Nathan Young. “Sierra is setting a fine example for her younger siblings and to anyone else once they get to know her.” Sierra has a deep love for films, telling us in her scholarship application essay that her favorites are Atonement, War of the Worlds and Brokeback Mountain. “Music and movies are my safe outlets for when I'm feeling sad or overwhelmed because they understand everything I’m feeling without me having to say a word,” she said, adding, “I love the feeling of being enthralled in a world unlike my own.” After earning her bachelor’s degree, Sierra plans to earn a master’s in psychology. “My experience with YAP was great because I had a great YAP worker who really cared for me and I was introduced to people who really wanted the best for me. For example, I remember I needed a white dress for graduation and my YAP worker drove me around all day until we found a white dress that I liked. Experiences like that made me appreciative of the people I have in my life.,” she shared. Sierra has her eye set on a career where she can apply her education to help children. “I want them to know that they are not alone.”


Seamus began receiving YAP’s services when he was in preschool. He credits PA YAP therapeutic support specialist Renee Williams for helping him get to where he is today, a student at Keystone College. “Before starting YAP, I was struggling to do well in school. I was emotionally unstable, had a behavioral decline, and was physically aggressive to other students. Renee helped me control my behavior so that I could advance academically,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. “I went from having a poor academic performance to a high academic performance. YAP also helped me understand more of what I was trying to achieve and work toward. With YAP, I could successfully say that I actually had a future to look forward to.” He graduated from Lackawanna Trail High School in Factoryville, PA. Not only did Seamus meet all the qualifications for graduation, he did so having taken a rigorous schedule of advanced classes. I am excited to see Seamus transitioning to Keystone College this fall and I have every reason to believe he will navigate the challenges that lie before him,” said YAP Behavioral Support Counselor James Smoker. Seamus’ career goal is to be an animator or video game designer. “I want to work in a famous animation studio such as Disney’s Pixar or DreamWorks and be able to bring laughter to people across the nation. A game company such as Nintendo or Sony might spark a character beloved by many across the globe,” he said. “Maybe I could be able to lend a hand to a desperate business in need of an idea and bring them out of obscurity. Perhaps I could start my own company, working to showcase all that is possible with the current technology and the imagination of those that choose to work there.” Seamus credits Renee and YAP for helping him see his strengths and pursue his goals. “I hope to have an impact on the world just as they had a great impact on me.”


Savannah experienced a lot of trauma as a child. “I endured witnessing drug use, hospital/rehabilitation center visits, prison visits, violence, and strangers questioning me about ‘my home life,’” she said. Savannah stays in touch with the couple who served as her foster parents during her early years. “I remained with my amazing foster parents, whom I still have a relationship with to this day at the age of 24 years old, for about two years...I lived with my paternal grandmother on and off for several years as I was frequently bounced between her and my mother; this was while my father was in and out of prison. My paternal grandmother, ‘Nana,’ was my primary caretaker and my saving grace.” When she was 11, Savanna experienced a deep loss when her Nana died. She spent the next few years living with other relatives, including her mom. “I became a homeless youth with senior prom, high-school graduation, and college applications due approaching. This was a very defining moment in my life. I knew I had to come up with a plan of action on how I was going to proceed being a young adult in these circumstances. I was thankful to have the support of my Youth Advocate Programs case worker[/Advocate], Jaclyn Booth ‘Jackie,’ who was a guiding force for me.” Savannah said Jackie helped her apply for college and encouraged her to lean on the support of another relative who gave her a place to live while she worked and went to school. After earning a B.A. in criminal justice, Savannah was drawn to working in child welfare and got a job with YAP. “I believe I am at my best when serving others. I also feel it is my own personal insight that makes me empathetic and enthusiastic to working with families in need. I enjoy working with families and assisting them in meeting their goals. This is why I am now trying to further my education at Adelphi University.” Savanna wants to use her education and her life experiences to make a difference for children and families whose complex challenges she knows firsthand. “I do not begrudge my parents for their addiction. My parents have struggled emotionally and mentally in many ways most cannot even begin to comprehend,” she wrote in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. “I love my parents with everything in me and commend them for still being able to show me love throughout the years although they have experienced incredible pain themselves.”


Nathan Valdez accepted his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship in the form of a computer. In 2020, he joined students across the country who had to take their courses online. “Due to Covid-19 they are offering very little amount of practically hours. With the computer I can do more school hours from home and finish my theory requirement hours,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. Nathan looks forward to applying what he’s learning virtually in a real -life setting. “I hope to work in a shop by the middle of next year and do that as my career choice,” he said. Nathan benefitted from Clark County YAP’s Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) program in 2018. “Through the YAP program, I have had the opportunity to continue my education while working a full-time job. I have received my Hiset (equivalent as high school diploma) and now barber college... I was also able to do a paid internship in a barber shop to get a feel of the job itself. Another benefit I get is gas cards once a month to help me get to and from work, as well as gas to go to school. My career coach always makes sure I can continue to have updates on the school since I was previously on a leave of absence due to work.” YAP WIOA Career Coah Yadirra Ramos was thrilled to recommend Nathan for the award. "Nathan has been positive since day one, has successfully completed his HiSet due to [his YAP] Job Developer and Career Coach motivating him and is looking forward to becoming a certified Nevada State Barber.”


From left: YAP CEO Jeff Fleischer with Michael Silvas

Michael Silvis took part in Adams County (PA) YAP’s program for young adults with developmental disabilities. Featured in the YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Scholarship for Continuing Education video, he received his third award in 2020. At Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), Michael received the Rising Star award for his academic achievements. From there, he attended Gettysburg college, where he has also held a job. Most recently, Michael has attended Liberty University and Central Penn College where he’s in a the new small business entrepreneur certificate program. “Thanks to Yap I was able to go to school for a higher education and I feel like a more independent person. . My dream is to own my own business. YAP has made this opportunity possible and I appreciate all you have done for me,” he said.


Kevin Gamber, speaking to YAP staff

Kevin Gamber was a participant in YAP’s youth justice program. “ The choices I was making before becoming involved with this program had me set on a path for failure. I am appreciative for the opportunity to be involved with the program vs. the alternative… house arrest,” he shared in his YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. Kevin’s 2020 scholarship was his second. He used the first to attend Cecil Community College. He credits YAP for helping him get his life on the right path. “During my junior year in high school I had become involved with drugs and bad peers that were pulling me down, sucking the potential right out of me. I had been placed on probation for criminal trespass charges and was suspended from school. Then a week before I got off of probation, I got a DUI. After having an honest conversation about allowing himself to be influenced by peers, Kevin’s probation officer recommended that he enroll in YAP as an alternative to house arrest. “The Youth Advocate Program has benefited me in many ways. I got to work close with my mentor, Dylan, for three months. This gave me someone young, close to my age, and he was as excited about my success as I was. I had access to him any time I needed him via text, or even call. I knew we could talk and work through things together. Within the first week of being involved with him, he helped me apply for three jobs. I got a job at Subway the next day. He also helped me set up a meeting with my parents, teachers, and positive peers to build me a support system.” Kevin used his first Tom Jeffers scholarship to enroll in community college. He took time off after getting a full time job and an apartment, which came with the responsibility of paying his bills. With his 2020 award, he wants to continue his college, to earn an Associate’s degree and then to go on to a four-year college to earn a Bachelor’s. “He understands that he needs to work harder to earn his degree and refocus his life,” said YAP Program Coordinator Nicole Milburn.


Jordan Miller received services from Harris County (TX) YAP’s youth justice program when he was 14. With the help of his Tom Jeffers Endowment scholarship, he’s now attending Lone Star College in Tomball. “I have to say that the program has been a major help with getting through life. I had difficulties being able to function properly in school and through everyday life. I always stayed in trouble as a kid and even into maturity.” Jordan credits YAP for putting his life on a new course, writing in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay, “I have to say that they have been a huge influence on me -- helping me with knowing how to function in a manageable fashion not only in school but also in society and knowing what I should and should not be doing.” He’s grateful to the YAP Advocate for empowering him with self-advocacy skills” “She taught me how to better take care of myself and also taught me how to receive information that I may or not like and to also be able to handle and respond in a respectful also responsible way,” he said. “I have to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.” Jordan’s goal with the scholarship is earn good grades to finish college and get a good job. “… and to be able to have a bright future for myself and to be able to provide for me and whatever family I have after I graduate…,” adding, “I will make sure to put forth a lot of passion and determination to better my future.”


Jenna Ryan received her second YAP scholarship in 2020, this time applying it to fees at The New School in New York, where she transferred from the University of Alabama. Jenna credits YAP for helping her through difficult emotional battles. She is grateful not only to the organization, but to her parents for being key to making her YAP individualized service plan work. She reflected on their love and how it started when they adopted her and brought her from Kazakhstan to her new home in New Jersey. In her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application, Jenna wrote: “So how could I not take their biggest risk, an uncertain investment, and morph it into a success story even greater than their initial dreams?” At Alabama, Jenna thrived. She also yearned to be back in the region where she grew up. “New Jersey made me tough, but being a short train ride away from what I deem as the greatest city in the country made me creative. I developed an infatuation for the city at a very young age; I used to beg my parents to drive through Times Square so I could stare at the lights in awe. To this day, my stomach still fills with butterflies every time I walk up the stairs of Pennsylvania Station and plant my eager feet on Eighth Avenue. New York City made me an artist defined by my own boundaries.” By her sophomore year in Alabama, Jenna knew where she belonged and was determined to get there. “I have finally found my niche and I am more than ready to attend The New School in the hopes of continuing on my path to establish myself as a profound writer,” she said. “I would give as much as my parents did in 2001 to return to Kazakhstan, with a bachelor’s degree in one hand and my dream career as a journalist in the other, to find my biological mother. I would like to thank her not only for this opportunity to foresee a fulfilling life unfold before my eyes, but also for the opportunity to make both my birth mother and parents proud. She, too, granted me an unfathomable amount of privilege I can only repay through my personal prosperity.”


Destiny plans to use the experiences that led her to YAP to become a lawyer and nonprofit leader. She got involved with Harris County (TX) YAP during her senior year after experiencing homelessness, personal challenges, and helping her parents care for her younger sister as she battled stage 4 kidney cancer. “I’d say anyone would have had a hard time adjusting to that. Nevertheless, my history of depression and suicide ideations loomed over my family like a dark cloud waiting to flood our new normal,” she told YAP in her scholarship application letter. Working with her YAP Advocate Ikeisha, Desinty’s life took a positive turn. “I can honestly say that the Youth Advocate Program introduced me to the rest of my life,” she shared in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application essay. “I learned how to advocate for myself and taught others how to do the same. Most importantly I learned the possibility of recovery and the magic of resiliency. I am worthy and capable of having the life I want, and the proof is in the pudding. Thanks to YAP I’ve been able to maintain a stable life despite my past trauma. This is only the beginning; I have goals and aspirations.” Destiny’s life plan includes becoming an attorney. “After receiving my JD, I plan to open my own non-profit organization servicing at-risk transitional aged youth. I want to cater to youth dealing with difficulties such as mental health diagnosis, addiction, homelessness and juvenile justice. These services will include therapy, parenting classes, peer mentoring, housing in our tiny home community and more. Qualifying clients will have the opportunity to go through the Peer Wellness Specialist training and gain employment as peer mentors. Additionally, I want to provide legal assistance to victims of abuse and/or sex trafficking. With the proper funding I will be able to have these services available to the public free of charge.”


Three years before applying for his YAP scholarship, Corey Eubanks was struggling with behavioral health issues. “When I was 17 years old. I was living with my aunt and uncle after some hardships with my mother. I was having behavior issues and was severely depressed. I did not have a good relationship with my aunt or my uncle and barely had a relationship with my mother. I had anger issues and impulse control issues,” he said. Corey said he’s come a long way. “Youth Advocate Program has helped me a lot. I now have a good relationship with my aunt and uncle. I live with my mother again and we get along well,” he wrote in his scholarship application letter. Corey took online classes in 2020 through his enrollment at American Public University, “which I really enjoy,” he wrote. YAP therapist Brittany Duke said Corey has made a lot of progress since receiving community-based services. “He has used the skills he has learned to enter college, obtain employment, and get his driver’s license,” she said. “Corey began courses at American Public University on May 3, 2020. He was able to enroll himself in school and apply skills he has learned through YAP services to better himself.” Brittany highly recommended him for the scholarship.


Donavan Hill, like most of YAP’s 2020 scholarship recipients, used their scholarship to take online classes. His were through his enrollment at McDaniel College in Wesminster, MD, where he’s majoring in criminal justice. “I chose to study criminal justice as a resource for the community I grew up in. I have lived in communities where crime is high and leadership has failed in keeping an injustice, non-racial system. As a young, black man, I want to take the time to study criminal justice and learn about what resources are needed in the high crime areas and make an impact to the youth in the community,” he wrote in his Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application letter. Donavan credits his YAP Advocate for helping him develop life skills and stay focused on his goals. Among the tools available to him through YAP was YAPWorx, a program designed to help young people who face complex issues build work skills, make career contacts, and find meaningful employment. Through YAPWorx, Donavan gained work experience at FedEx, where he earned money to pay his restitution. “I believe that when I am released from probation, I will succeed in life, and do that, by completing my enrollment here at McDaniel college,” he said. Howard County YAP Assistant Director Danielle Franklin nominated Donavan for the award. “Donovan has demonstrated a good, positive demeanor in the program and consistently puts forth a good effort in his community by continuing to work for jobs that he enjoys,” she said. “Donovan is always making himself available for advocacy services, and he gladly participates in activities with his [YAP] Advocate.”


Ethan Kaufman received services from YAP PA’s Somerset Behavioral Health program. He used his scholarship to help with books and tuition at Penn Highlands Community College. “Ethan is very driven and strives to do his best always. He enjoys attending his classes,” said YAP Therapeutic Support Specialist Sara Synder. Ethan is focused on finishing college, getting “a good job,” having animals and being in a position where he can help his family. “I feel that not only does this [the scholarship] help him with his academics, but this helps him with learning how to have appropriate social skills. Ethan is a very kind person; he enjoys making others happy and feel good,” Sara said. Recommending him for the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship, Sara wrote, “Ethan has already and will continue to benefit from being in school in many ways. Ethan is a hard worker and tries his best with all of his school work.”


Heather Caffiero received services from the YAP Middlesex County (NJ) youth justice program. “Throughout my experience and struggles with being a troubled teenager, I have been incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice Commission,” she said. “Upon release, I was assigned a mentor [Advocate] through the YAP Middlesex County Re-Entry program to help me adjust back to society in a positive way. The YAP program has helped me adjust to society, [with] life skills, financial advice, and family mentoring,” she shared in her Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund scholarship application. Heather completed four years of high school in less than 18 months. She also earned several certifications, including serve safe, financial literacy and nutrition licenses. Super driven, her goals include completing her education at Middlesex County College, transferring to Rutgers University to complete her undergraduate studies, becoming a real estate broker and stock investor, and earning a PH.D. in mental health. Impressed with Heather after serving as her YAP Advocate for a short time, Dianne Williams recommended her for the Tom Jeffers Endowment Scholarship. “… from the moment I met her, she hit the ground running! Heather is a genuine, compassionate, persistent young woman. She is determined to overcome many obstacles that she has had in her life,” Dianne said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Heather will continue to overcome obstacles and challenges, which is why she is deserving of this scholarship.”


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