Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., partners with the Yavapai County Juvenile Probation Department to provide community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and out-of-home placement. A nonprofit in 31 states and the District of Columbia, YAP launched in Yavapai County in 2020. The site is one of six youth justice startups launched with grants from the Safely Home Fund, a joint initiative with YAP with the Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform to create community-based alternatives to youth incarceration.
The key to the success of program participants are their neighborhood-based Advocates who provide intensive family-based services that help youth see their strengths and establish their goals.
We asked the Yavapai County YAP Advocates to tell us what they enjoy about their jobs and here’s what they had to say:
Gordon Burton and Cami Pollard:
“For us this is a way to contribute to the local community in which we have chosen to retire. Part of the reward for us, besides a stronger community, is being able to see young people grow and learn to make positive choices in their lives and make contributions themselves to the community.
Further, we have the opportunity to learn more of the Indigenous culture that is all around us.”
“What I love most about being a YAP Advocate is being a kind, loving leader and role model for my kids!”
“To bear witness to or be a part of when, a child, who’s life you know to be full of trauma and uncertainty, genuinely smiles.”
“When a program participant shares something from their heart and thanks me with a grin (or tears) just for listening. So simple and so profound.”
“The most rewarding part of being a YAP Advocate so far has been hearing about individuals hopes for the future. Everyone has desires and dreams for what they can accomplish with their lives and the numerous things they can become. Hearing individuals openly talk about those wants is truly inspiring. The ability to lay out a plan for the future and discuss the steps needed to accomplish those plans has even pushed me to plan a little bit more in my life. While scheduling day to day activities might still seem daunting to them the idea of what the future holds is still exciting which in turn makes me delighted to work with them through harder times to help them hopefully achieve, as close to, their ideal future as possible.”
“I think that the easiest (and one of the best) answers to this question is getting to see the growth that a YAP youth undergoes as they go through our program, encountering challenges and developing new skills. But the best, most rewarding thing about this wonderful work to me is when one of my boys recognizes growth in himself. All too often, the youth we work with are told that they have failed or that they aren’t good enough, and a punitive justice system is hasty to reinforce that message. To see a youth, take ownership of their future, participate in their self-growth process, and then get to look back and see that they have created something in themselves that cannot be taken away is absolutely extraordinary. To see a young man or woman take pride in who they have become, and to know that I had a hand in their journey is the best gift that I could ever receive.”
“The most rewarding aspect about being an advocate is reaching that inner trust in a kid. Seeing the “light” click on in their eyes when they realize there are good people in the world that care about them and for the first time, they feel safe, important, and worthy. They finally let go, have fun, smile, laugh, play, and just be a kid. First, you see it in their reaction to you but as time goes on you see them connecting with the community in the same way. That is awesome.”