Youth Advocate Programs Scholarship Winner Tells Story to Encourage Others

This story is part of an ongoing series featuring the 2018 Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education Scholarship award winners

At age 18, Kevin Gamber is careful to make choices that will put him on the road to success. At a recent gathering in his honor at Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc. in Lancaster, Pa., he shared his personal story to let a group of young people know that like them, he’d made decisions in the past that were sending him down a very different path.

“During my junior year in high school, I had become involved with drugs and some peers who were pulling me in directions that were steering my life down a road that would stop me from reaching my full potential. I had been placed on probation for criminal trespass charges and was suspended from school. Then a week before I got off probation, I got a DUI,” he said.

While he faced house arrest, Kevin said his probation officer recommended that instead, he enroll in YAP. YAP works with juvenile justice, social services, behavioral health and other pubic systems partners as a unique home-based alternative to costly youth prisons and other out-of-home institutional placement. Kevin said YAP’s model of matching youth with mentor-advocates helped turn his life around.

Kevin was speaking to the group in Lancaster as one of YAP’s 2018 Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education scholarship winners. YAP established the award to help individuals in its programs pursue their educational and professional goals. Along with Kevin’s family, YAP invited others enrolled in its program to be there when Kevin received his oversized $1,000 scholarship check.

Kevin said YAP matched him with Dylan, an advocate in his neighborhood who mentored him while connecting his parents with a toolkit of community resources that helped reinforce the family’s foundation. Kevin said Dylan also helped him set up a meeting with his parents, teachers and caring peers to build a support system.

“I got to work closely with Dylan, for three months. He was young, close to my age, and he was as excited about my success as I was. I had access to him any time I needed him via text, or even call. I knew we could talk and work through things together. Within the first week of being involved with him, he helped me apply for three jobs. I got a job at Subway the next day.”

Kevin has begun his freshman year at Mansfield University where he plans to try out for the football and baseball teams in hopes of earning an athletic scholarship. While he is undecided about the major he will select, he is sure about what he will do after college.

“I have been very interested in history, economics and politics my whole life and I love Elizabethtown and have always been proud to live there. I would like to run for mayor after I have met my other education and sports goals,” he said. “When I look into the future, having the mayor of Elizabethtown being able to support this program as a successful former participant will help further its noble cause.”

Kevin’s YAP college send-off included a few essentials — support from family and friends, a YAP duffel bag filled with school supplies — and the big check, which Kevin said will be hanging in his dorm room.

“We are so very proud of him.” said Lancaster Youth Advocate Programs & YAP Adult Services Program Director Karen Kerper.