With Support from Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc. Mentors and More, Evan J. Barkhimer Pursues his Goal to Help Others

Johnstown, Pa. — Young people with behavioral health needs and those who love them can be inspired and encouraged by the story of Evan Barkhimer of Johnstown, Pa.

Barkhimer is a student at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, taking steps to achieve his goal to become a psychologist and researcher. For three consecutive years, he has received the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship award. YAP partners with youth justice and social services systems in 22 states and the district of Columbia to serve individuals and families with complex needs. Named for YAP founder Tom Jeffers and supported largely by donations from the nonprofit’s employees, the $1,000 endowment scholarship is available to young people currently or formerly enrolled in YAP and their parents and guardians to support their education, career or creative pursuits.

For Barkhimer, school was once a major challenge. “As an elementary school student “mainly because of several mental disorders I was dealing with at the time, I had difficulty in school getting my work done and behaving myself,” Barkhimer wrote in his scholarship application essay.

This January, National Mentoring Month, as YAP celebrates all who volunteer their time to help others, the nonprofit is also raising awareness of its own unique mentors and more mentorship model. The 43-year-old YAP Advocate mentor model is receiving increasing recognition as a cost-effective community-based alternative to youth incarceration, behavioral health institutions and child social services placements.

Barkhimer was in third grade when he and his family were introduced to the Somerset, Pa. YAP Behavioral Health Program. Barkhimer said that’s when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and “later on with mild autism spectrum disorder.” Throughout his remaining elementary and middle school years, YAP Advocate mentors, therapeutic support specialists (TSS) Heather Lees and Sharon Seidel, provided him with intensive in-school and later after-school support and mentorship. Consistent with the YAP mentors and more model, Barkhimer’s YAP Advocate mentors also provided ongoing support for his parents. Recruited from the communities of the individuals they serve, YAP Advocates are mentors and more who empower youth and their families with individualized toolkits that help them to identify, nurture and share their strengths. Collaborating with their teammates, YAP’s paid mentors also connect individuals and families they serve with community resources to reinforce their foundation.

“As a result, I actually attempted to work on my homework after school and had more success in school. I was getting more work done and I was improving how I interacted with others,” Barkhimer shared.

“As a result, I actually attempted to work on my homework after school and had more success in school. I was getting more work done and I was improving how I interacted with others,” Barkhimer shared.

Seidel, who recommended Barkhimer for his most recent Tom Jeffers Endowment Scholarship award, recalls seeing his progress continuing through high school as his family foundation grew stronger, writing, “During that time both Evan and his family made significant improvements in their family interactions.”

While Barkhimer’s formal time with YAP ended years ago, his YAP Advocate mentors continue to support him in every way they can, most notably with the scholarship to help with college expenses. “Without this support it would be impossible for him to further his education in this area,” Seidel said.

“Without this support it would be impossible for him to further his education in this area,” Seidel said.

Barkhimer sees the scholarship as an extension of his childhood triumphs. “I hope to achieve a doctorate in the field and conduct research as a professional psychologist… as much as my life has improved, I still want to keep achieving my goals, and with some help along the way I know I can do just that.”