They Missed Prom; So YAP Chicago’s Back to Our Future Program Gave Participants a Thanksgiving Sneaker Ball

    Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. hosted a Thanksgiving Sneaker Ball for its Back to Our Future program participants.

    Chicago, Ill. – Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. hosted a Thanksgiving Sneaker Ball that allowed its Back to Our Future program participants and their families to dress up and enjoy an evening of elegance they may not otherwise have been able to experience.

    “It was beautiful; it was so amazing,” said YAP Back to Our Future Program Director Monique Crisp. It was a time for us to engage with the program participants and their families into the Thanksgiving season.”

    Launched a year ago, Chicago Public Schools (CPS)’ Back to Our Future gives Chicago residents ages 12-20 who have dropped out of or otherwise disengaged from school a safe system of support to continue their education. YAP, a 48-year-old national nonprofit in 35 states and the District of Columbia, partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, education, and other systems to provide alternatives to incarceration and residential placement.

    Crisp said preparing for the ball provided valuable teachable moments that might have come more organically during high school milestones that program participants missed when they were away from school.

    “Since we’re always dressed down, it was nice to have them put on some formal clothes and teach them the etiquette of how to dress nicer and because some of the have been out of school for six months to two years, they haven’t been able to attend a homecoming or a prom,” Crisp added.

    The Thanksgiving Sneaker Ball took place on Nov. 16 with nearly 125 program participants and their families in attendance, in addition to approximately 50 Chicago area YAP staff including Back to Our Future Program Director Colby Chapman.

    “We wanted to see youth in their formal wear,” Chapman said. “We invited them and their parents to come out of the south loop of Chicago, so we’re getting folks out of their neighborhood to enjoy the downtown landscape and scenery. We really provided them with a night of edutainment (education and entertainment) and bringing a holistic approach to overall youth moral and development.”

    Several youth have made great strides through the Back to Our Future program, YAP staff said, including those who thanked YAP and their Advocates who encouraged them to choose positive paths.

    “Another young lady said before she started with Youth Advocate Programs and received an Advocate, she didn’t know what love was but now we became the family and the love she didn’t have,” Crisp added. “I am just so excited about this program.”

    Crisp and Chapman hope the Thanksgiving Sneaker Ball will be an annual affair. The event also included a catered dinner, a 360 photo booth, decorations and a DJ.

    “Back to Our Future has been a great opportunity to give back to our future,” Crisp said. “Due to some of the barriers our youth may have come across, we’ve been able to show them a different way of looking at things.”

    For more information on YAP visit or follow the organization on X at @YAPInc.