Equine Therapy Sets former Youth Participant on Path to Becoming a Pastry Chef

    Mackenzie received a laptop through the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education.

    Harris County, Texas – Through equine therapy offered from Harris County’s Youth Advocate Program (YAP), Inc., Mackenzie has learned self-control, empathy, and patience.

    “Being enrolled in equine therapy has helped with several of the issues from which I suffer,” Mackenzie said. “Patience has always been a struggle for me. Working with horses has helped me learn to harness some self-control and use patience as a way of handling situations with others.”

    Mackenzie is one of the numerous former YAP program participants and family members or guardians receiving a scholarship from the 2022 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education. Through the Endowment Fund scholarship, Mackenzie recently received a laptop to help during her first year at Galveston College where she is enrolled in the Culinary Arts program. Her classes include culinary math, regional and international cuisines, baking fundamentals, and restaurant Spanish. Her goal is to become a pastry chef.

    “This Endowment Scholarship helped me to receive a laptop to use while I am at college,” Mackenzie said. “It will aid in furthering my education because several of my culinary textbooks are located online.”

    Mackenzie connected with YAP through the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Waiver Program, which helps young people who face mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges. The program is part of YAP’s mental health services offered to young people at home, school, or in community settings. Mackenzie said the program helped him with his anxiety and social skills issues including struggles with connecting with others and easily panicking in otherwise ordinary situations.

    YAP is a national nonprofit in 33 states and the District of Columbia that partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and other systems to provide trauma-informed community-based services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate placements, residential treatment, and neighborhood violence.

    Equine therapy provides psychotherapy with a behavioral health specialist alongside horses by doing activities such as feeding, grooming and other things with the animals.

    “Working with horses through equine therapy has helped me tremendously with this,” Mackenzie added. “To gain a horse’s trust, they need to be shown respect. You must be kind and show them that you are there to nurture and help them. Also, horses will not give respect to you unless it is first given to them. They will not work with you in riding, walking, or any other simple command or activity.”

    YAP started the scholarship fund in 2004 and it is made possible by weekly contributions from generous YAP employees. The fund was renamed the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education in honor of YAP’s founder Tom Jeffers after his death. The scholarship is awarded in the amount of $1,000 toward school and job training costs or can come in the form of a laptop computer. Recipients can reapply annually.

    Mackenzie is thankful to YAP for helping him continue his education. After a year at Galveston College, she plans to transfer to Houston Community College to begin working toward her pastry arts and baking diplomas.

    “One day, I hope to have my own business and compete in different baking competitions,” Mackenzie said. “Being awarded this scholarship is a blessing, to me and my family in helping me achieve my dream of becoming a pastry chef.”

    To learn more about YAP visit www.yapinc.org or follow us on Twitter at @YAPInc.