Instead of Lockup, Alonzo Got an Advocate and Turned His Life Around

    Former Philadelphia YAP program participant Alonzo and his Advocate Carl Walker during the Resilience and Peace Rally on Aug. 26.

    Philadelphia – At age 14, he threatened a teacher; but instead of lockup, Alonzo got a personal Advocate.

    Four years after completing his program at Philadelphia Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., Alonzo was one of two former program participants who shared their stories at the Resilience and Peace Rally held at Philadelphia YAP’s headquarters on Aug. 26.

    The event was held for former and current Philadelphia YAP program participants to motivate each other and provide an opportunity for them to come together, take a stance against violence, and stand up for youth justice reform. Food, a raffle, and entertainment were also provided.

    “Before YAP, I was bad and doing dumb stuff,” Alonzo, now 18, said. “I would recommend YAP to people who needed it like me.”

    For more than four decades, youth justice systems have referred thousands of Philadelphia youth justice and child welfare systems-involved young people to YAP, a national nonprofit providing community-based alternatives to detention, youth prison, away-from-home placements, and neighborhood violence in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

    Attendees play cornhole.

    YAP Advocates help young people identify their strengths and empower them and their parents and guardians with accessible tools to turn their lives around.

    Among the tools is YAP Supported Work, where young people work for local employers while receiving a paycheck from the nonprofit– often to repay court fees and restitution.

    Alonzo’s mother, Christina, owner of Tina’s Arts & Crafts, created decorations for the rally and like her son, is thankful for what YAP did to support her son.

    “He’s doing much better,” she said, adding, “He’s not in the streets like he was before.”

    Carl Walker, the YAP Advocate who supported Alonzo and his family, joined them at the rally. Walker credits Alonzo for using the program’s tools to control his anger and get his schoolwork done, adding that he graduated from Excel Academy North and is now working.

    Fred Fogg, YAP’s Assistant Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Region and YAP CEO Jeff Fleischer.

    “He has really matured and grown up,” Walker said. “Before (YAP) he was getting into trouble and misbehaving. He is a lot more focused now.”

    The Philadelphia YAP team hosted the rally as an opportunity to inspire, encourage and celebrate the successes of program participants. To learn more about YAP, please visit Follow the organization on Twitter @YAPInc.