Her YAP Advocate Was her ‘Angel,’ Never Letting Her Down

    Former YAP program participant Brooklyn and her Advocate Shaneka Bynum.

    Roanoke, Va.– At age 15, Brooklyn was referred to Youth Advocate Programs (YAP™), Inc. after being released from a residential care facility and placed in foster care. She was hurt, depressed and acting out.

    “I still remember the day my Advocate Shaneka Bynum did an intake assessment on me,” Brooklyn recalled. “I was certain there was nothing YAP could do for me. I was very reluctant to open up to anybody, as everyone had already walked out of my life. It did not take long for Shaneka and me to click. If somebody were to ask me if I had angels in my life, Shaneka would always be one of my answers.”

    YAP Roanoke provides youth justice services where young people are provided with a neighborhood-based Advocate who supports their families with individualized economic, emotional and education wraparound tools; and behavioral health services where youth are supported with intensive-therapy. YAP is a national nonprofit in 35 states and Washington, D.C. that reduces the nation’s overreliance on youth incarceration, residential care, and group home foster placements. YAP partners with public systems to provide community-based wraparound and behavioral health services as an alternative to out-of-home placement.

    Brooklyn says Bynum was a dependable adult and a constant in her life who never left her. Eight years after Brooklyn’s discharge from YAP, the two still keep in touch. Today Brooklyn is a 23 -year-old mother and student at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Va., majoring in healthcare administration. Since age 19, she has worked in a hospital as a nursing assistant in the neuro-trauma progressive care unit. Bynum, who now serves as YAP National Director of Employee and Program Development, encouraged Brooklyn to apply for the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education and she was awarded $1,000 toward her tuition.

    “Receiving this scholarship is a blessing,” Brooklyn said. “It allows me to continue to work and better myself without having to worry about paying for my college classes.”

    Named after YAP’s founder, the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund is mostly funded by employee donations and scholarships are provided to eligible current and former program participants with now up to $1,200 for college tuition, job training/supplies fees, or a laptop computer. Current and former YAP program participants can reapply for the scholarship on an annual calendar basis.

    Brooklyn and her daughter Sophia.

    “Brooklyn is passionate about her career choice,” Bynum said. “I’ve known Brooklyn for almost a decade, and she has always been one of the brightest young women I have had the pleasure of working with. She enjoys supporting others and it makes sense why she has chosen her career path.”

    YAP staff encouraged Brooklyn, and taught her coping skills, how to love herself, be a responsible adult, build healthy relationships, and how to set boundaries. YAP also provided  her with parenting skills.

    “Through all the twists and turns in my life, Shaneka and the YAP team were by my side,” Brooklyn said. “Even when I did not feel like I was doing my best, I still had their support. My childhood and teenage years were some of the hardest of my life. I truly could not have gotten through my teenage years without YAP.”

    Brooklyn’s goal is to earn her bachelor’s degree, and to continue to be a great role model for her daughter, providing her she said, with everything she didn’t have as a child.

    To support youth like Brooklyn or for more information on YAP visit yapinc.org.