“YAP to the Future” May 23, 2023 Open House
Harrisburg, PA: The Support Center
Event photos by Sean Quarterman; Building portraits by Keston De Coteau
Harrisburg, PA. – A celebration at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s new headquarters building recognized the national nonprofit’s 108 Harrisburg-based employees whose work supports colleagues across the country providing community-based services as alternatives to youth incarceration, residential care, and neighborhood violence. Called YAP to the Future, the event was the official open house of the agency’s new (3899 Front St., Harrisburg) headquarters site, also known as The Support Center (TSC).
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Administrator Liz Ryan and Harrisburg Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams joined YAP President and CEO Gary Ivory, YAP Board of Directors Chair Georgia State Rep. Teddy Reese, Esq., and dozens of current and former board members, employees and program participants for the celebration.
“Hearing the young people tonight, it’s just so, so motivating. And this is why we do the work because we believe young people are our future, but we also believe they are our present,” Ryan said. “We want to make sure they have all the tools and resources that they need to be successful. And that’s what YAP does every day.”
YAP to the Future featured Santos Robles, Harrisburg Area Community College Enrollment Services Specialist, who spoke of his experience as a YAP program participant at age 17. He said his YAP Advocate introduced him to the idea of entering the military, where he began his career.
“My journey has led me to the belief that lots of kids need more support. They have challenges and complex needs that require attention and care,” Robles said. I also learned that we do not need to take these kids away from their families and send them to faraway places.”
Other current and former YAP program participants who shared their stories included Intellectual Disabilities/Autism Services program participant, Connor; former Child Welfare program participant, Faith Towle, who now works as a YAP Advocate; Youth Justice program participants Jayvius and Jaequan; and YAP Behavioral Health program participant Carlos.
“Through the support of YAP, my entire life has changed,” Connor said, standing next to his YAP Life Coach Audrey Waterman. “Since the beginning of life I’ve had a lot of struggles and through the support of YAP, all of those struggles I have been able to overcome.”
A recently hired YAP Advocate who recently completed her first year of college, Towle said she is working to become a social worker so that she can become “a light,” as her YAP Child Welfare Services Advocate was for her.
“Around 16, I was referred to YAP and my youth Advocate Trinity Huffman really helped me achieve a lot in life,” Towle said. “She helped me become independent, she showed me that anything is possible, and she truly has been an amazing person in my life.”
Jayvius said that at age 14, he began stealing cars and getting into trouble with his peers. Since becoming a YAP Youth Justice participant, he said he has learned to love his positive qualities. “… I am respectful, responsible…” he said. “My goals are learning more about real estate, graduating from high school, and purchasing a car.”
Jaequan, 17, credited his grandmother, who raised him (and was there with his at the open house event), for providing needed support during his time as a YAP participant.
“Since being in the program, I have learned to think before I act, better communication skills with everyone around me, getting along with my peers,” he said. “My future goals after I get out of the [YAP Community Treatment Center] CTC program is getting my GED, getting a good paying job, and getting off probation once and for all.”
Carlos, 17, shared how at age 11, he began working with YAP Behavioral Health Services professional Anna, who helped him learn skills to express himself and manage his impulses and anger.
“I thank Anna [Kanpol] and the Youth Advocate Programs for helping me become more open and not as aggressive with peers and family, and I always use my coping skills when needed,” Carlos said. “A coping skill I discovered last year is that I can write and make music. I’m the rapper Los and this is part of a song called love me again,” he said, as he performed the rock version of the song. Carlos followed the song by surprising Kanpol with a bouquet.
Founded in Harrisburg in 1975, YAP recently relocated several TSC offices across Harrisburg to the N. Front St. building. Partnering with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and public safety systems, YAP’s 2,150 employees serve nearly 18,000 young people and families in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Through YAP International, the agency also oversees partner programs in Australia, Guatemala, Ireland, and Sierra Leone.
“While I cannot speak to the work that youth advocate programs are doing in 34 other states, I do know what you are doing here in the City of Harrisburg and that is saving children’s lives which is important to me; giving them direction when their rock gives away,” Mayor Williams said.
YAP International’s U.S. State Department’s Community Engagement Exchange Program fellows took a few minutes to share how their experiences over the past few weeks at YAP offices in Chicago, Orlando and Pittsburg will inform their work when they return to their home countries. The fellows included Imane Lakbachi from Morocco; Dr. Ali Al-Turaihi from Iraq, and Kabira Tojalieva and Nigora Sanakulova from Uzbekistan.
YAP to the Future concluded with former YAP board members Jay Snyder and Lynette Brown-Sow unveiling a portrait of YAP founder Tom Jeffers that will hang in the lobby of the new headquarters building.
Harpist Eryn Fuson (Eryn Fuson Music) provided music throughout the event.