Using Lessons From Their Past, Youth Advocates Work To Strengthen Baltimore’s Future

— For 13 years, as a Maryland-DC regional leader at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., Craig Jernigan has adhered to the nonprofit organization’s “no eject; no reject” policy to provide young people who might otherwise be incarcerated with tools to succeed— at home and in their communities.

This year, YAP has expanded its role, as has become a Baltimore Safe Streets partner. Safe Streets is an evidence-based interruption program that employs individuals who have been involved with the justice system to serve as a positive force in their communities to prevent violence.

Jernigan manages the Safe Streets team in Penn-North, which covers many of the streets, where he lived as a youth and young adult.

“We moved a lot— Gilmore, Mount, Stricker; all up and through Sandtown-Winchester,” he said.

The Cure Violence/Safe Streets model is built on credibility and neighborhood rapport. Safe Streets team members identify and detect potential violence hot spots, mediating conflicts and applying interruption strategies.

Safe Streets uses the Cure Violence (formerly Ceasefire) techniques, which has been shown to be effective in reducing shootings and homicides in Baltimore.

For 44 years, the YAP program model has served as an alternative to youth

incarceration and compulsory care in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

YAP’s paid mentor-advocates provide intensive, individualized mentorship, which helps youth identify and realize their strengths.

At the same time, the organization works with the parents or guardians of those young people they serve, connecting them to resources in their community to help firm the family’s foundation.

“As a Safe Streets partner, YAP is an even bigger part of the communities we serve. This means being able to help more people by empowering them with needed resources and services— employment, substance abuse support,

providing real community building to empower people individually and strengthen the entire neighborhood’s foundation,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan’s Safe Streets team members are excited to have an opportunity to have positive employment and are extremely proud to be able to serve as role models in their communities.

“It’s so gratifying being able to give men and women who have been on the other side a chance to be a part of rebuilding their neighborhoods. It’s restructuring and strengthening from the inside; it makes a difference to the entire community,” Jernigan said.

To learn more about the Youth Advocate Program, visit: YAPInc.org.