YAP Kentucky Program Director Hope Knuckles-Perks Loves Serving the Community Where She Grew Up

    Louisville, Ky. –When Hope Knuckles-Perks became Program Director at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., in Jefferson County, Ky., she got in her car and drove around Louisville to personally meet with program participants and their families. Half of the homes she visited had been shot up.

    “I ride around with young people who people want to kill every day,” Knuckles-Perks said. “That is the life we live as [YAP] Advocates, directors, and program coordinators.”

    A national nonprofit in 35 states and the District of Columbia, YAP partners with youth justice, child welfare, education, behavioral health, and other systems to provide community-based services as more effective and equitable alternatives to youth incarceration and residential care. YAP also partners with public safety systems to implement neighborhood anti-violence initiatives.

    Hope Knuckles-Perks and YAP Chief Learning and Innovation Officer Carla Benway.

    Knuckles-Perks started as an Advocate in Kentucky in 2019 before relocating to Charlotte, N.C. There she also served as an Advocate before becoming program coordinator for YAP – Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), N.C. YAP promoted Knuckles-Perks to the Jefferson County program in August 2022, where she could be back closer to her family.

    “Hope exemplified one who has the ability to lead others to reach and inspire our youth,” said Mecklenburg County Program Director Malik Glover. “Her passion and drive to make a difference in the lives of youth and their families is unmatched.”

    Born in Philadelphia and raised in Louisville since age 6, Knuckles-Perks’ background is in the healthcare field. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in criminal justice.

    Knuckles-Perks said her childhood was filled with turmoil and traumatic experiences. At age 15 she was taking care of her two younger siblings. Unlike the young people she serves at YAP, Knuckles-Perks said she didn’t get into trouble as a youth. But she did as an adult in her 30s, which resulted in felonies and probation until her record was expunged.

    Hope Knuckles-Perks when she received her Master’s Degree in criminal justice from Argosy University in 2021.

    “Anything that can happen to a person has happened to me,” Knuckles-Perks said. “I’ve been away from my children, was on probation…everything was in disarray. My whole life I was in fight or flight mode but no matter what happens to us in life, we can do better.”

    YAP Jefferson County, Ky. works with youth who have been referred to the program through the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. Knuckles-Perks said she learned about YAP through a previous Advocate while in a meeting about purchasing life insurance and became interested in juvenile justice when a family member had some involvement in the court system.

    “I think it was YAP’s mission to help these youth and keep them out of the detention centers that piqued my interest,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of this organization.”

    YAP Midwest Regional Director Jamaal Crawford said Knuckles-Perks was determined to become an Advocate and when the position opened to become program director back in Kentucky it was the right step forward for her.

    “With her persistence and mixture of compassion that she has when engaging with participants and families, it was natural for her to transition into the Louisville Director role when she interviewed for that position,” Crawford said. “Hope continues to do great things within the Louisville community, and I look forward to her continued professional growth within the agency.”

    Hope Knuckles-Perks with YAP Midwest Regional Director Jamaal Crawford.

    Knuckles-Perks credits attending a YAP New Directors Training as Charlotte’s program coordinator as a pivotal moment for her career within the agency. She left the training feeling inspired and motivated to go back and share what she learned. Before long, she was at the helm of Kentucky’s longest running YAP program where there were approximately 15 families being served. She said six months later when that number doubled, she was excited, saying she wants to help as many families as she can.

    Hope Knuckles-Perks and YAP Director of Program Administration Carl Graham.

    Knuckles-Perks stays on-call, with her phone in reach in case a youth or family need her.

    “By building those relationships and connections in a different way and being that voice for my families is what it’s all about,” Knuckles-Perks who is mom to three adult daughters, added. “I’ve always wanted to give back and help people. I don’t have any plans of leaving YAP. I want to continue to go up and up.”

    For more information on YAP, visit yapinc.org or follow on Twitter at @YAPInc.