Yavapai County, Arizona – Fresh air, water, and the open wilderness helped five young people open up and face their fears during a recent kayaking trip. The youths are participants in Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. in Yavapai County, Arizona; and the trip was part of their rehabilitative services.
YAP is a 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. Neighborhood-based Advocates are paired with youth to provide them and their families with emotional, economic, and educational support.
As part of the experience the youths joined their YAP Advocates and Yavapai-Apache Nation (YAN) Wilderness Program staff for a special lunch. The entire experience was made possible by the Arizona Community Foundation.
“We love working with our youth in the outdoors,” said YAP Yavapai County Director Patty Delp. “It helps build self-confidence and resilience. I have used the outdoors my entire life for healing and adventure and I am thrilled to offer this to our youth.”
Some of our Yavapai County youth have never kayaked before, Delp said, adding that the adventure took part on a section of the Verde River that is relatively tame. In addition to Delp, YAP Advocates Cami Pollard, Monica Marquez and Eric Schulze went along for the ride, kayaking with the youths for five miles on the river located in rural Northern Arizona.
Marquez, who became an Advocate with YAP in May, works for YAN full-time as the wilderness program manager and is a YAN tribal member. She was instrumental in connecting the two organizations. Through YAN, Marquez does a lot of adventure-based activities, including rock climbing and kayaking, as a form of therapeutic support. As a YAP Advocate, she said she has been working with a fourteen-year-old who was recently removed from her home and is getting reacclimated to school. Marquez is helping her make her own Native American dress and boots and complete beadwork on it for a coming-of-age ceremony.
“It’s really important for the youth to be able to share cultural knowledge with others,” Marquez said. “It gives them insight to the area they live in and helps them respect it more.”
Though the youth didn’t want to go on the kayaking trip initially, Marquez was able to persuade the YAP participant, and she ended up having a good time.
“We were kayaking together,” Marquez said, adding, “I was teasing her when we tipped over in the kayak. It was probably the first time I heard her be vocal and she was having a good time.”
Delp said Schulze is an Advocate of a young man who is dealing with issues surrounding family trauma. The youth, who Delp describes as helpful and respectful, also went kayaking with the group.
“He’s the one that really inspired us to be able to show up and do an event like this,” Delp said, adding the participant helped with equipment assisted all while on the river, and helped others pull their boats out of the water when they finished kayaking. “I am so proud of him, and I so believe in him. He is an amazing young man.”
Schulze has been a YAP Advocate for two years and said the outdoors helps youth with recovery, and overcoming anxiety, depression as well as other things as well.
“I work with four youth,” Schulze said. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked with all kinds of different kids; those dealing with substance misuse, anxiety, lack of social awareness, and trauma in their backgrounds. I think is pretty universal. They come with as many diverse backgrounds that you can think of, and I think they all need the same thing, which is community.”
Delp is thankful for Schulze, Martinez and her entire team; adding that her Advocates possess qualities that include energy, patience, kindness, compassion and calmness all of which help to build trust and relationships with young people.
“Each one of these kids is just a fantastic individual,” Schulze added. “They’re all capable of incredible things as long as they have the right support network in place.”