Chicago – Kiwon used to think about making bad choices to help feed his baby and keep a roof over his head, but with the help of Youth Advocate Program’s (YAP), Inc., Service Coordination and Navigation or SCAN program, he’s earned his GED, found housing, and is encouraged to get his barbering license.
“I used to think about doing bad things until YAP talked to me and guided me to better ways,” 21-year-old Kiwon said. “It’s been good for me. I love it.”
Kiwon and other young people whom YAP assisted in finishing high school or completing their GED, gain employment, and/or find housing, gathered at a Community Connection Event on the last Saturday in May. Families and youth from the Englewood and Newcity areas celebrated YAP’s one-year success of its Chicago SCAN program, which connects youth ages 14-24 to accessible economic, educational, and emotional tools to help them achieve positive goals. The event included flag football, a bounce house and other games, music, fellowship, a meal and desserts, along with YAP swag and informational resources about the organization.
YAP is a 47-year-old national nonprofit in 33 states and the District of Columbia that partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and other systems to provide transformative community-based wraparound services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate placements, and neighborhood violence. Through funding from Chicago’s Department of Family Support and Service, YAP began its SCAN program early last year to support high-risk youth who may face complex individual or family challenges.
“We’ve had a great success rate with this program in providing housing, employment and reconnecting youth to finishing school,” said Lisa Watts, YAP Chicago’s Department of Family Support and Service Director. “We had a great turnout at the Community Connection Event celebrating the positivity occurring with youth in YAP’s Chicago SCAN program.”
YAP Chicago SCAN participants Simeon and Jeremiah have found guidance, support and kinship through the program.
“It helps me stay out of trouble,” Simeon said. “It helps to keep me motivated.”
Jeremiah added, “They helped me with the problems I was going through, and I actually was able to help other friends too. They’re like family now.”
For 15 years, YAP has been in Chicago matching youth justice and child welfare-involved youth and families with mostly neighborhood-based Advocates trained to help them see their strengths and connect them and their families with tools, even basic needs resources, to empower them to overcome barriers to success.
In addition to SCAN and its community-based youth justice and child welfare services, the nonprofit’s Chicago office recently launched a Violence Interruption Program in Washington Heights where YAP Advocates provide outreach aimed to resolve disputes, and diffuse conflict among youths and young adults.