The Neighborhood Advocate

With the Help of YAP and its Scholarship Fund, Ethan is Conquering His Challenges and Earned his College Degree

YAP Behavioral Health Technician Sherri Snyder and program participant Ethan at his college graduation.

Somerset County, Pa. – For the past three years Youth Advocate Programs (YAP™) Behavioral Health Technician Sherri Snyder has worked with Ethan for 15 hours every week to help him improve his communication skills with his peers, friends and family.

“He has come a long way,” Snyder said. “Ethan has been staying out of trouble at school and is working on what is proper.”

YAP is a national nonprofit in 35 states and Washington, D.C., providing trauma-informed services reducing the nation’s overreliance on youth incarceration, residential care, and group home foster placements. YAP partners with public systems to provide community-based wraparound and behavioral health services as an alternative to out-of-home placement.

Ethan, who is on the autism spectrum, is a participant of YAP Somerset County’s Intellectual Disabilities program offered through the organization’s behavioral health staff who support, listen, and encourage young people.

“If I never started with YAP, things would have been different,” Ethan said. “It’s a work in progress but things are going well.”

Ethan, 22, was 17 when he began working with YAP. Through the help of Snyder and other YAP therapeutic support employees, he earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Penn Highlands Community College in western Pennsylvania where his favorite classes centered around topics including history, government, and pop culture. 

“Without them I wouldn’t have had anybody to help me,” Ethan said about YAP staff and Snyder whom he refers to as “Miss Sherri.”

With graduation behind him, Ethan is currently looking for a remote job to help pay back his student loan. Throughout his matriculation, he found tuition support through the YAP Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education, a one-year award that as a YAP program participant, he was able to apply for and receive for four consecutive years.

Ethan at his graduation ceremony at Penn Highlands Community College.

“This program has been very wonderful over the years,” Ethan wrote in his scholarship application essay. “I am very thankful [for this scholarship that] helped me for my last year.”

Named after YAP’s founder, the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund is mostly funded by employee donations and scholarships are provided to eligible current and former program participants with $1,200 for college tuition, job training/supplies fees, or a laptop computer. Participants may apply on an annual calendar basis.

When applying for the scholarship, Ethan wrote that his goals and aspirations were to finish college to then use his diploma for a better career in the future; in addition to making good choices and decisions.

“I benefited from the program because it helped me make it through my semester each year in order to get a better education,” Ethan said. “It helped me receive more knowledge and learning skills for my future job down the road.”

Ethan said being involved with YAP has benefited his life for the better.

“YAP has helped me,” he said. “We’re working on a lot of goals. There has been some stressful moments, but I’ve worked through them.”

Snyder, who has been with YAP for the past 15 years, says working with young people like Ethan and seeing them accomplish their goals is what kept her at the agency this long. 

“I love my job,” she added. “I enjoy working with Ethan. We do connect well; he can confide in me and we work through things.”

For more information on YAP, visit

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