Los Angeles – At age 18, Kevin’s best memories of his childhood were before his 14th birthday. He played and was good at just about every sport. One of his biggest fans and best friends was his grandfather, a jack of many trades, whom Kevin deeply admired and loved.
Kevin said at age 13, everything good about his life changed. His grandfather died and Kevin was confused and angry. He started skipping school and with charges related to fighting and destroying property, he found himself before a juvenile court judge more times than he can count.
Kevin said it wasn’t until he was 16 that he gave any thought to his circumstances, let alone his future. The change came through Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., a national nonprofit that partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and other systems to provide community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and residential placements.
“I was on probation and wasn’t going home most nights,” Kevin said. “I kept missing court dates.”
Now in 35 states and Washington, D.C., by 2020, YAP had begun partnering with a Los Angeles community organization to serve County Superior Court system-involved youth.
“He was a kid and didn’t understand the seriousness of missing court dates and other appointments associated with his probation,” said Reggie Cooper, the Advocate YAP assigned to work with Kevin and his family.
YAP’s evidence-based model is centered in delivering culturally and linguistically responsive services by hiring neighborhood-based Advocates and mobile behavioral health professionals trained in empowering young people with tools to see and nurture their strengths. YAP employees connect program participants and their parents, guardians, and other families with resources to meet their individualized economic, educational, emotional, and basic needs.
Reggie advocated for Kevin, showing up alongside his mom in court. Kevin would later learn that like himself, Reggie was also caught up in the youth justice system during his adolescence shortly after losing his grandfather.
Two years later, Kevin said he’s an entirely different person. “I’m responsible and think before I act now,” he said.
Reggie agrees saying that in addition to going to school, Kevin shows up on time at his job at a food chain and is enrolling in a program that trains young people in construction trades. When Kevin looks at his future now, things are clearer than ever.
“I’m going to work in construction,” he said. Smiling, he added, “like my grandfather.”