How I spent My Summer Vacation:

Working a Super Cool Summer Job

Dennis, Melvin and Callum at work with the RailRiders

About 100 Pennsylvania youth who have disabilities, have been justice-involved, live in rural communities, or face other employment barriers are returning to school after having some super cool summer jobs. 

In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, youth worked in the marketing department for the Minor League Baseball RailRiders. In Philadelphia, participants were at Philly Pumptrack, a free, public, volunteer-led bike park for youth and families from the region, while others were moving and shaking with Councilmember Kendra Brooks. Some participants with disabilities were on the counseling staff at the York YMCA’s Camp Spirit and worked with the City of York Parks and Recreation Bureau giving neighborhood parks a makeover. Meantime, a few young foodies got on-the-job training at the Gettysburg College dining hall.

The young summer employees are participants in Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR)’s “My Work Initiative” and “Community Work Instruction” programs. The MY Work Initiative and Community Work Instruction programs are OVR funded summer jobs programs to connect students with disabilities en masse to jobs in their local communities.

“The OVR My Work Initiative is a fantastic program that creates collaboration between OVR, a local municipality, and a local vendor to offer paid work-based learning experiences for students with disabilities,” said Acting Executive Director of OVR Ryan Hyde. “The partnership with YAP has been an exceptional example of collaboration that will impact the student participants for years to come by creating opportunities for them to gain real world work experience in a variety of professions.”

YAP partners with systems in 33 states and the District of Columbia to provide community-based child welfare, youth justice, behavioral health, and anti-violence services. The national nonprofit hires and trains community-based staff to help program participants see their strengths while connecting them with economic, educational, and emotional tools to nurture them.

“We’ve modeled both OVR summer jobs initiatives after our YAP Supported Work program component, where we identify and recruit employers willing to provide on-the-job training for kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get paid for something they’re enthusiastic about,” said YAP National Coordinator of Developmental Disabilities Programs Lori Burrus. “Eleven YAP offices across the state are participating in these summer jobs programs, and like YAP Supported Work, wages are paid to participants through funding from our systems partner, which in this case, is OVR.”

Taking Steps to Get Texas Children Safely Home

This month, Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. took two important steps to get Texas child welfare and youth justice children safely home. Working with leaders at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS), the national nonprofit began work on an innovative “Safely Home” pilot program in Harris County. YAP’s goal working with TDFPS is to find safe alternatives for children without placement, to prevent disruption of foster care placements, and to provide individual and family services as youth are coming home from out-of-state justice and other congregate facilities. 

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Also this month, testifying before the Texas House Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform (3:47:30), YAP President Gary Ivory said neighborhood-based wraparound services could be a safe, effective alternative to incarcerating Texas youth. His testimony came as state lawmakers are considering raising the age of criminal responsibility in Texas from 17 to 18. Ivory’s recommendation followed testimony about Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities that are understaffed, compromising the mission to rehabilitate children currently in care, with no capacity to accept 18-year-olds.

Chicago YAP Part of a Pilot Program to Re-Engage Youth Separated from School

Photo, YAP Program Director E’Ron Leveston with former Choose to Change™ participant 

Devion and YAP Assistant Director Carla Felton at UCAN/Children’s Home & Aid news conference 

announcing Back to Our Future Program, where YAP will provide youth and family services. 

As part of an announcement of a pilot program to re-engage youth separated from school, recent Ombudsman South High School graduate Devion credited Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. for helping him get back on track. He was part of a news conference about Back to Our Future, a pilot program introduced by the state of Illinois in partnership with the City of Chicago. The program, which launches with YAP as a leading partner, aims to support 1,000 youth in high-risk situations. Devion said his childhood was not always stable and said going to Ombudsman South helped him begin to turn his life around after dropping out of high school, getting caught up in things that were not positive and getting arrested. That’s where he met his YAP Advocate Martin as part of his involvement in Choose to Change™, a violence prevention partnership with YAP and Children’s Home & Aid.  

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