Kingston, N.Y. – Skipping school and being on probation is why Alexis was referred to Ulster County’s Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. when she was 14 years-old. Thanks to her family, YAP, and her Advocate with the program, today she’s a young adult, in college. She’s also one of 23 former program participants and family members or guardians who received the 2021 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education.
“I was doing really bad,” said Alexis, now 22. I wouldn’t go to school. I left YAP when I was placed in a group home, and then I rejoined YAP and met Jenilee. She’s a wonderful person.”
Jenilee Pollan is the Program Director of Ulster County’s YAP but was Alexis’ Advocate when she first came to the program in 2016.
YAP is a national nonprofit in 32 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.
“She was a big school avoider,” Pollan said of Alexis. “She is a really good kid, well — woman — now. She had a really good support system.”
Pollan helped Alexis’ family secure home schooling for her to finish high school and even employed her through her personal cleaning business. With Pollan’s encouragement Alexis completed her education and is now enrolled in Strayer University.
“College is something that I always push,” Pollan said. “I remind them they can apply for the (YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education) Scholarship.”
Through the Endowment Fund scholarship, Alexis received a MacBook laptop to continue her college studies. YAP started the scholarship fund in 2004 through weekly contributions from generous YAP employees. The fund was renamed the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education in honor of YAP’s founder after his death. The special scholarship is $1,000 toward school and job training costs or can come in the form of a laptop computer. Recipients can reapply annually.
Ulster County YAP held a ceremony to congratulate Alexis on her achievement in February. She brought her family to the celebration that included an oversized check presentation and cupcakes.
“I am doing college online and having this laptop means a lot,” Alexis said. “YAP is a great program. If there are any problems, they come and help get you out of that environment.”
Pollan, who first started with YAP in 2013 before becoming assistant director and director, said she couldn’t be prouder of Alexis who still shares her grades with her even though she doesn’t have to. She said growing up in her New York state region can be rough and the teen years are difficult for youth, but she’s in awe of young people like Alexis who are able to break barriers and succeed.
Alexis, is now a married mother of two children, ages 5 years-old and 9 months, with a third child on the way.
“(Alexis) is a great adult and a good mom, she deserves this,” Pollan added. “This work feeds my soul. What I do helps me sleep at night. It definitely encourages me and helps me with my own trauma; me being able to help others.”
For more information on YAP, visit www.YAPInc.org. Follow the organization on Twitter @YAPInc.