Advocating for Youth and Families is Latoya Rivers’ Purpose

    YAP Charleston, SC Site Supervisor Latoya Rivers.

    Charleston, S.C. – Since retiring from the Army, North Charleston native Latoya Rivers has helped youth stay safe and away from violent behaviors. As Site Supervisor of Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP™)’s community violence interruption program (CVI) in Charleston, S.C., she will accept the Soul Harvesters Outreach Ministry’s humanitarian award during “The Night on the Red Carpet Gala,” on May 4.

    “This accolade is presented by our organization to those individuals whose tireless efforts and dedication have brought noteworthy change in our community,” said Soul Harvesters Outreach Ministry Executive Director Sylvia Evans. “Through your actions, you have shown that seeing a need for change is one thing, but actually stepping up and taking action to make that change happen is where you shine.”

    YAP Charleston, SC Site Supervisor Latoya Rivers and former program participant Anthony Frazier at his graduation from tech school.

    YAP is a national nonprofit in 36 states and the District of Columbia that delivers community-based services as a more effective and equitable alternative to youth incarceration and out-of-home placement. In recent years, YAP has combined its evidence-based model of hiring and training neighborhood-based staff to deliver youth and family wraparound services with proven community safety approaches to help cities curb violence.

    In Charleston since 2022, YAP uses the Cure Violence Global model to detect and interrupt conflicts; identify and treat individuals at the highest-risk of violence engagement; and change social norms, while also delivering its decades-old evidence-based YAP wraparound services that empower youth and families with tools to nurture their strengths and keep their lives on a positive trajectory.

    “Right now I am wearing every hat there is,” said Rivers, who’s been with YAP since the nonprofit began its CVI work in Charleston. “One thing I’ve learned from the military is that you cannot give up. No matter how hard things get, you have to continue to persevere.”

    YAP Charleston hosts monthly events, collaborates with community partners/agencies and strives to make YAP known in the community. Most recently YAP Charleston took program participants on a seaside excursion where they learned the fundamentals of fishing. Rivers said fishing is connected to social skills and helps to improve overall physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

    YAP Charleston, SC Site Supervisor Latoya Rivers.

    Like many of the individuals she serves in her YAP role, Rivers hasn’t been shielded from the effects of gun violence. The same day she was hired by YAP she learned that her close family friend, whom she considered a nephew, was shot and killed.

    “It was devastating,” she said. “We’ve known each other for at least 40 years. It was just heartbreaking.”

    Rivers said in 2008, the father of her son was killed, which led him into deep grief. The experience spearheaded her to move into her purpose to advocate for youth and parents by connecting them to available resources in the community. In 2013, she started a chapter of Saving Our Sons & Sisters, a nonprofit committed to improving the lives of youth and supporting their education.

    After serving in the military for almost two decades, Rivers opened a childcare facility before beginning her career at YAP.

    “I enjoy championing and caring for children,” Rivers said. “I didn’t want to stop doing that. I love nurturing and keeping them safe.”

    Rivers’ overall determination to keep going despite the obstacles and hardships she endured is the reason she is being honored, according to Soul Harvesters Outreach Ministry.

    Soul Harvesters Outreach Ministry Executive Director Sylvia Evans.

    “The actions of your organization, Youth Advocate Programs, have made a significant difference in addressing the social and emotional issues of our youth,” Evans said. “We believe that this award is a well-deserved recognition of your hard work and dedication.”

    Rivers will be recognized during a gala at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 at the Crowne Plaza, 4841 Tanger Outlet Blvd., in North Charleston.

    To learn more about YAP and to support its work, visit