No reject; no eject. That’s a mantra at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., a national nonprofit that provides community-based alternatives for young people who might otherwise be placed in youth detention or behavioral health/drug treatment, developmental disabilities or child-welfare facilities.
“YAP’s goal is to turn setbacks into steppingstones while keeping young people safely home with their families and helping them become contributing members of their communities” said Adams County, Pa. YAP Program Director Robert Witt.
As an example, he points to 18-year-old Erin Barnhart, an aspiring model who participated in the Adams County YAP Behavioral Health program a couple of years ago.
“During that time, I had many ups and downs, but YAP was always there for me,” Barnhart said. “In February 2018, I had a setback and was admitted to a treatment center. When I was released, my mobile therapist Kayla Sollenberger was waiting for me when I got home.”
YAP mobile therapists meet with young people in their homes and other settings in their communities where they are most comfortable receiving services. Adhering to the YAP wraparound model, these therapists serve as mentor advocates, providing individualized service plans that help young people identify and realize their strengths. As advocates, they also connect the young people and their parents to tools and resources that firm their foundation and empower them to achieve their goals.
“With love and encouragement from my YAP staff and family, I began to communicate effectively with others and utilize my coping skills,” Barnhart said. “Youth Advocate Programs truly gave me the tools to be successful and confident.”
One of Barnhart’s goals is to be a plus-size model. She is a two-time recipient of the YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship. The $1,000 award is one of the tools the nonprofit makes available to individuals served by the organization and their family members to help them achieve their education and career goals.
With her first YAP scholarship, Barnhart participated in the 2016 Barbizon Passport to Discovery Cruise, where she received more than 10 hours of training and had an opportunity to audition for international agents.
“During that week, I was in Michaela Paige’s Be You video and participated in the Miss Top Plus Model Awards ceremony,” she said. “I auditioned for Laura Gentry, an international scout, and I received top scores for my runway walk, commercial, and marketability. She awarded me the highest scholarship for Passport to Discovery and the opportunity to perform in additional competitions.”
Miss Top Plus Model Magazine named Barnhart Miss Top Plus Model East Coast and featured her in the publication.
Barnhart’s second Tom Jeffers scholarship is helping her pay for specialized trainings, including one offered by Hollywood casting director Paul Weber. She has her eye set on modeling for Torrid, her favorite plus size clothing designer for girls and women.
“Youth Advocate Programs has supported me for many years. Everyone at YAP has always believed in me,” Barnhart said. “Without YAP and my family, I would not have had the confidence to achieve my goals.”