Youth Justice System in Her Past and her Dream Career in Mortuary Science in her Future

    Former YAP Philadelphia Program Participant Aniya is an intern at the W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home. She is pictured riding in the back of a funeral limo.

    Philadelphia, Pa. – The death of her maternal grandmother is what piqued former Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP™) Philadelphia program participant Aniya’s interest in mortuary science.

    Since last spring, the 17-year-old has been going to the W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home at least once a week after school to learn about the funeral business. The job came through YAP Supported Work, a YAP service where program participants are matched with employers close to home in fields that align with their interests and strengths.

    “I am learning about basically everything that has to do with funerals from start to finish, going from picking up the body to the burial,” Aniya said. “Everyone there is really nice, welcoming and very helpful.”

    YAP is a national nonprofit that partners with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, education, and other systems in 35 states and Washington D.C. to deliver evidence-based community rehabilitative services as an alternative to youth incarceration and residential care/treatment. YAP also uses its unique wraparound services approach to help cities curb community violence. Neighborhood-based YAP Advocates and mobile therapists deliver strength-based, culturally responsive individualized services that connect program participants and their families with economic, educational, and emotional tools to help them thrive.

    Aniya was connected to YAP Philadelphia’s youth justice program at age 16 while on house arrest for theft. YAP Advocates Caprea Ross and Valentina Landrine supported Aniya, empowered her to see and nurture her strengths, and encouraged her to use her talents.

    “Working in the funeral home is something she was passionate about,” Ross said.

    YAP recently received a grant from the Boeing to make YAP Supported Work available to more program participants. The Boeing grant also enables YAP to enroll more participants in YAPWORX™, an employment readiness training program that engages volunteers to educate justice and child welfare-systems involved young people about their jobs and businesses, provide mentoring, and create social capital.

    W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home Assistant Funeral Director Andre Dozier was familiar with YAP when Ross reached out to him to tell him about Aniya’s interest in mortuary services and asked him to give her a YAP Supported Work job. 

    Aniya and W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home Assistant Funeral Director Andre Dozier. Photo Courtesy W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home .

    “When I was young, I didn’t always have those opportunities and seeing how people can go through struggles in life gave me the notion to say hey those people still need help too,” he said. “Everybody doesn’t always get a second chance, third, fourth or fifth chance. If that is something you really want to do and I see that in someone I don’t mind helping to give back.”

    Dozier, who inherited the family business alongside his cousin after his grandfather’s death, says he gave Aniya an opportunity because he believes in reaching back to uplift others.

    “Aniya is very bright,” said Dozier. “She is the youngest person I know that actually can handle being around this type of business. Not a lot of people like being around this type of business, it’s very rare. She shows that she doesn’t have any fear.”

    Aniya graduated from YAP and has since gotten off of probation. 

    “She is a good kid who just got caught up in the juvenile court system. She has progressed a lot,” Ross added.

    While YAP Supported Work provided Aniya’s compensation while she was enrolled in the program’s community-based rehabilitative services, she has continued her employment at funeral home as an intern. Dozier said Aniya is learning everything she can about the business. She was recently added to the company’s website where she’s described as “soft-spirited fashion-forward funeral director intern” whose “passion for mortuary work is rooted in a deep desire to provide comfort and support to families during their most difficult times.”

    “I am super proud of her,” said Ross, whose been at YAP for five years. “Most kids don’t know what they want to do but she does and she is not backing down. She is rocking it. Black girl magic all day. She enjoys it. The funeral home loves her and she loves them.”

    Ross said Aniya has helped with approximately 10-15 funerals. Dozier and staff are teaching Aniya about the history of the funeral home, how to make pre-arrangements, how to socialize around people during a sad time, the order of service, clerical work, housekeeping, and helping her learn more about herself.

    “She is receiving a lot of business management traits,” Dozier said. “She’s learning her hard and soft skills. This is good to put on her resume.”

    Aniya appreciates how Dozier explains things in a way that she can comprehend and admires his patience.

    “I really like it there,” she said. “Mr. Andre tries to explain things in a way that my 17 year-old brain understands. He knows that I am more of a visual learner. That place is like my home away from home.”

    Moreover, Aniya doesn’t want families to worry more than they have to. Instead she would like to help ease the burden for the loved ones of the deceased as much as she can. Since working at the funeral home, Aniya has increased her self-confidence and willingness to engage with new people, said YAP Philadelphia Assistant Director Amelia Mullock.

    “Aniya has grown significantly,” Mullock said. “She is a silly, energetic, empathetic young lady who has a desire to learn and grow.”

    YAP Philadelphia Assistant Director Amelia Mullock and Aniya.

    Aniya’s goal right now is to get her grades up. She has one more year left of high school and then plans to attend an in-state college that both offers a major in mortuary science and on-campus dormitories.

    “I know people’s families worry after death, but I want to open my own funeral home to make funerals be a little easier on them so they don’t have to worry about so many things,” she said. “I just want to help people.”

    W. D. Jackson & John H. Joynes Funeral Home created a GoFundMe account for Aniya’s education. She can also apply for a scholarship through the Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education, which is mostly funded by YAP 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.

    In its pre-50th anniversary year, YAP is looking to partner with more corporations and small businesses to extend YAP Supported Work and YAPWORX™ to more program participants. To learn more about YAP, visit or follow the organization on X at @YAPInc.