Maryland-DC Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., a community-based alternative to youth incarceration and institutionalization, gathered in Baltimore on Friday, October 25, 2019 to celebrate the progress of its youth and adult program participants.
For 44 years, YAP, a nonprofit in 28 states and the District of Columbia, has served as an alternative to youth prison and out-of-home placement.
YAP hires and trains neighborhood-based Advocate-mentors to help young people identify and realize their strengths while connecting them to tools to help them achieve their personal, educational and professional goals. In addition to partnering with youth justice and child welfare systems, the nonprofit has expanded its services in the District of Columbia to adapt its unique holistic family service model to hire and train adults who have been involved in the justice system to support adults returning home from prison.
YAP also hires men and women who have been involved with the justice system in its role as a new Baltimore City Safe Streets partner.
“Everything YAP does is focused on empowering youth, families and communities with tools to succeed,” said YAP Regional Director Craig Jernigan, who presented awards to staff, community partners, YAP Supported Work employers, and others who make up what he calls the ‘YAP village.’
While the celebration honored allregional program participants the event highlighted youth who YAP has served as part of its partnership with Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS). Three young people— Jacquwan, Osman and Erick— received the YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship, one of the tools available to program participants and their families to support their educational or vocational pursuits.
Jacquwan, a first-year student at Prince George’s Community College, is studying business management in pursuit of a career in the music industry. Jacquwan says his YAP Advocate Marcus Bundle empowered him with tools to reinforce the cracks in his foundation after he lost his father and made an unwise choice.
Osman, who is mentored by YAP Advocate Brandon Miler, is completing his first year at PG Community College and heading to a four-year college to pursue a career in social work. Reflecting on when he was first connected to YAP, Osman said he has come a long way.
"It was around graduation time and everything was in my head. Am I going to graduate? What's my family going to think? “How long am I going to be locked up? The yap program helped me a lot. He [Brandon] helped me a lot. Now I’m just following the path that's been paved for me," said Osman who is grateful that because of YAP, his path did not include incarceration.
Erick, a student at Montgomery Community College, says his YAP Advocate Patrick Nowmonoh, is a role model who has helped him identify his strengths and talents.
“The program has changed me in many ways; helped me to get more motivated in my education,” Erick said after receiving his award. “It's been really helpful in my life for real, for real."
Among the community partners YAP honored was Baltimore Flight American Fusion Restaurant & Bar owner Ray “Ziggy” Davis, the event’s keynote speaker. The program also recognized Baltimore City Safe Streets Director Dedra Layne and Dwain Johnson, who retired after serving as Baltimore City Regional director for DJS, where he led efforts to partner with YAP. The regional YAP team gave special thanks to Coppin State University Professor Dr. Argin Hutchins for sharing his behavioral health expertise with the organization and a number of other community partners.
Baltimore YAP Program Director Eddie Moore, Prince George’s/Montgomery County Program Director Syl Parson, and Howard County Program Coordinator Danielle Franklin recognized youth they serve as well as their fellow staff members. YAP Penn North Safe Streets Director Dennis Wise and Safe Streets Crime Prevention Coordinator Wayne Brewton thanked their staff members; and YAP’s Washington DC Credible Messenger team received recognition from program leaders Ed DeJesus and Charles Bentil as they celebrated the success of adults they serve.
For more information about YAP, visit: www.yapinc.org.