Las Vegas – Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Clark County Director Neosha Smith is among six Advancing the Dream 2023 recipients awarded by U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-04) in February in honor of Black History Month.
“It was a surprise,” said Smith of the recognition. “I got a call a couple weeks back from the Congressman’s office saying that I was an award recipient.”
“Neosha is a southern Nevada native whose passion for youth and families impacted by the criminal justice system has significantly affected our communities,” Horsford wrote on Twitter. “She is a program director at YAP where she assists those involved in the youth justice system with reentry to society.”
YAP is a national nonprofit in 34 states and Washington, D.C. that provides community-based services as alternatives to youth incarceration, residential care, and neighborhood violence.
Smith, who oversees YAP’s safety and advocacy programs for the state of Nevada, started with the nonprofit in 2012. She came to YAP as an intern while attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she received degrees in sociology and criminal justice. Smith has also served as a YAP Advocate, administrative manager, file clerk, and assistant director.
“I love the work YAP does and the freedom it gives,” said Smith, who was born in Guam and has lived in Las Vegas since age 5. “I think I fell in love with the work that we do. It’s different than what everyone else is doing. YAP was my first full-time job.”
YAP Clark County Job Developer Ryan Henson said he nominated Smith for the Advancing the Dream award because of all of the hard work she does with the program.
“For the last decade, Neosha has been a constant factor in changing the lives of many of our youth, and is a voice of change. She is selfless in her approach, and often times puts the needs of our youth and our program above her own,” he said. “She never gives herself praise or acknowledges her efforts because she does it for our youth. This is why I wanted to nominate her because I felt like her efforts and her commitment shouldn’t go unnoticed.”
YAP Southwest Regional Director Nyeri Richards echoed Henson’s sentiments, saying “Neosha is one of the most deserving individuals and it is beautiful to see the right people recognized.”
“It is only befitting that Neosha Smith would be awarded the Advancing the Dream award as she is someone who has spent countless hours, both personally and professionally, opening gateways for our young people so they too can advance their dreams,” Richards said.
Smith said thanks to regional and national leadership like Richards, President and Interim CEO Gary Ivory, Chief Impact Officer Patty Rosati and Chief Program Officer Dave Williams, Smith, she feels supported, heard and is equipped with the tools she needs to help young people and their families.
“That’s really a positive for YAP,” Smith said, adding “the program participants are really who keep me going and pushes me to fight for them.”
Other Advancing the Dream awardees included Arielle Edwards, Chase McCurdy, Sean Tory, Vance Sanders and LaSandra Morrison.