Newark, N.J. – As 15-year-old Samaya shares stories of mixing oils, scents, and pigments, to create her Glossy Babe lip gloss line, her mother Alfreda Williams, feels proud. She’s also quick to share the credit for how far her daughter has come in a year.
“You’ve heard the term it takes a village to raise a child,” Williams said.
Last summer, deeply concerned about Samaya’s anger issues, Williams enrolled Samaya in a special outreach program offered by Essex Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. In its 47th year and now in 32 states and the District of Columbia, YAP is a national nonprofit better known for partnering with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and other systems to provide community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.
The outreach program allows Essex County YAP to apply its evidence-based model to help youth who may not be systems involved but are high-risk. Williams enrolled Samaya in the program to help address her anger issues. YAP applies its effective no reject, no eject model to help youth like Samaya see their strengths and set positive goals.
At intake, Samaya told YAP Program Director Curtis Moore that she wanted a job, but that because she was 14, no one would hire her. Seeing Samaya’s determination, Moore encouraged her to create her own source of income. He assigned her to YAP Advocate Lawanda Griggs.
“Mr. Moore told her that if she couldn’t get a job, she should create her own,” said Griggs, the former program coordinator of YAP in Essex County. “She was really bent on creating her own situation to make money. She started to research what type of business she could get into and saw something online where she could make lip gloss.”
With Griggs at her side, Samaya got to work. She combed the internet and viewed YouTube tutorials to learn how to make lip gloss and what formula to use to make them.
Samaya said girls in her class like things like lip balm, so they became the target market of whom she would sell her product to. She then put them into tubes and began selling them for $3.
Griggs was excited and gave her additional resources and tips along the way.
“She encouraged me to make more and gave me different techniques on how to sell them,” Samaya said. “I wanted to make some money and now I have big orders.”
Samaya says Griggs also tutored her on how to communicate with people, saying that was an issue she needed a lot of help with.
“I had an attitude problem, and I would be rude and say whatever came to my mind, even when I knew it wasn’t nice,” Samaya said. “That has all changed and I don’t do that anymore. I love my advocate because she helped me in a positive way.”
Griggs worked with Samaya so that she could also have better relationships with her mom and peers.
“I told her that if she didn’t know how to talk to people, she was never going to sell her product,” Griggs said. “We called our sessions ‘business meetings.’ She’s a really nice kid who was determined to have her own income.”
Williams is thankful for Moore, Griggs, and YAP.
“The program has helped tremendously. (Samaya) still has her moments, but she is more receptive to change and direction, ” she said.
Williams also developed a bond with Griggs because YAP doesn’t just help youth, the organization supports their families too.
“She was basically on-call,” Williams said of Griggs, adding that she was able to meet Samaya where she was. “I called her when I needed advice, insight, and how I should handle things. Even though Samaya wasn’t related to her, she still treated her like her own and treated her like part of her family. She didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I know she cared about my daughter. YAP really changed our lives.”
Moore is proud of Samaya who is also in the process of trying to get her website up-and-running.
“She doesn’t just create the lip gloss from scratch, but she manages the business from a sale, and inventory perspective, and advertises her brand on her Instagram platform,” Moore said. “Inspiring young people like Samaya to be empowered and believe in themselves is what YAP is all about.”
Even though Samaya is no longer a YAP participant, she and Griggs still connect twice a week.
“Samaya has that entrepreneurial spirit,” Griggs said. “She is a breath of fresh air.”
Added Griggs, “Once upon a time I was a teenager too and I became a teenage mother. After graduating from high school and college, I wanted to reach back and make sure they didn’t do what I did. YAP gives me an opportunity to do that.”