Lebanon County, Pa. – Eighteen-year-old Miquel is leaving Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., focused on his future with his forklift certificate in tow to help get him there.
“I am proud because it is something that is going to help me,” Miquel said about his accomplishment. “Now I plan on getting a job and getting my GED.”
YAP is a national nonprofit in 32 states and the District of Columbia that partners with youth justice, child welfare and other systems to provide trauma-informed community-based services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate placements and treatment, and neighborhood violence. The Lebanon County Juvenile Probation Office referred Miquel to YAP in 2019 after he was missing probation and was skipping school.
“He’s changed, there is growth; but he’s always been a good kid,” said YAP Community Treatment Advocate Jon Melendez. “He’s always been helpful and friendly. He went from being a kid to an adult.”
YAP Advocates and other frontline staff are trained to help young people identify their strengths and empower them and their parents and guardians with accessible tools to turn their lives around. One of the tools available to YAP participants in Lebanon County is Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act (WIOA), where the qualifications for youth participation in the program are that they have two general barriers to employment.
“We try to prepare them for any certifications and anything we can help them get once they turn 18. Forklift is one of the certifications they could pick out,” said YAP Program Coordinator Dee Cook. “The certification was a one-day experience for everything, and Miquel walked out of there with a forklift certificate. Once he tasted that success, I knew he would be fine.”
Cook, who met Miguel last summer, remembers looking in on him during his day-long certification training experience, which included a written test. At one point, she saw him cheering on other participants and showing others how to properly use the forklift.
“I could not believe how he was not only coming around and doing this himself, but he was also supporting others,” Cook said. “It was just the neatest thing for me to watch. I know he felt good.”
Melendez shares Cook’s happiness about Miquel’s achievement, adding that the young man has an opportunity to make good money.
Miquel will begin working at a warehouse this month through YAP Supported work where a local employer provides work experience, and the nonprofit pays the program participant’s wages. Meantime, Miguel will also have an opportunity to participate in YAPWORX, where YAP program participants meet with employers to learn about career options, get support with building a resume, and gain social capital, a network of caring contacts who can help them improve their economic mobility.
Miquel, who finished YAP’s program in December, said he’s going to miss laughing and joking with Melendez but plans to keep in touch.
“I am going to miss him because he was consistent,” Melendez added. “You knew what you were getting with him.”