Success Through Lebanon County Youth Advocate Program
After reading the service-oriented mission of the Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), the attraction to Lebanon Valley College students and alumni is no surprise. The group works to provide individuals who are, have been, or may be subject to compulsory care with the opportunity to develop, contribute, and be valued as assets so that communities have a safe, proven effective, and economical alternative to institutional placement. Of the 85 total members on YAP’s Lebanon staff, seven are LVC graduates.
For education majors such as Alicia Moyer ’17, a six-month employee of YAP, these alumni connections provide them the means to practice the skills they learn in the classroom while gaining an understanding of new techniques. Moyer asserts that her time at YAP provided her with a valuable insight into the institutional perspective of dealing with traditionally problematic students.
“I will most definitely use my experiences from working with these schools to improve my classroom in the future,” affirms Moyer. “I know what it is like to not want to go to school and I now understand what the students’ lives are like at home. I’ve learned ways to help them and their families. YAP has helped me look at the story from different points of view.”
As a youth advocate, Moyer is responsible for preventing placement in an alternative living facility by keeping individuals accountable to obligations such as schoolwork and probationary community service quotients. Initially, Moyer thought this position would be a simple, part-time job to hold while in college—a conclusion that was quickly proven wrong.
“Once I started working with YAP I realized I had a major impact on children’s lives,” explains Moyer. “Sometimes we forget how lucky we have it until we look at other people’s lives and realize the trials and complications they are going through.”
The receptive mentality of individuals like Moyer is one of the many reasons that the YAP lauds LVC students as employees. Jeffrey Boehler ’01, advocate program director, recalls that among his interns, the 10 he has had from LVC have been high performers with an exceptional work ethic.
“LVC teaches a higher level of professionalism that translates well into the field and the working world, which makes the level of an LVC student better than others,” emphasizes Boehler.
Alane Stief ’05, assistant director of BHRS & adult autism waiver services confirms this: “LVC gives its students a well-rounded education by providing excellent instruction and opportunities on and off campus. LVC holds students accountable for their own learning and success while guiding them along the way through modeling and encouraging professionalism, respect, and dignity.”
YAP provides students with the means to supplement a traditional classroom education with a variety of new experiences. While human service majors such as psychology, sociology, and criminal justice are the most natural fit, YAP strives to be open to all individuals with the appropriate skill set.
“We provide the opportunity to work with populations that LVC students may not otherwise be familiar with or have the opportunity to work with,” outlines Stief. “We have clients of all ages and backgrounds, and offering so many services in our agency makes YAP a great place for people to discover their strengths and weaknesses and truly identify their passions.”
Stief considers the networking that Moyer has done an essential part of professional development for students, and encourages students to explore their options. Boehler does the same as a LVC Career Connections mentor.
“Having network connections available for students to talk to can help them narrow down their career path or answer any questions they may have about the job or field in general,” explains Stief. “This can help prepare them for employment after graduation and help them establish connections in the field they are interested in working in.”
The flexibility and multi-faceted nature of YAP makes it easy for students to balance their educational responsibilities while investigating their vocation possibilities, as exemplified by Anthony Sinico ’13.
Sinico returned to LVC as a non-traditional student in 2011 in order to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming an educator. He began his career with YAP while at LVC and simultaneously began balancing part-time employment at the program, 15–18 credits a semester, and home and family responsibilities.
Sinico currently works part-time for YAP with the bulk of his hours coming during the summer break.
“Youth Advocate Programs is a diverse agency that works with many different people with various needs, and can offer flexibility to students who just graduated or are about to graduate,” says Sinico. “Flexibility is the most significant reason for me staying with the program.”
Learn more about YAP by visiting www.yapinc.org.