I was first introduced to the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program (YOACAP) as a teenager. A family friend and personal mentor worked here for years, holding multiple positions, and I’ve been amazed by YOACAP’s influence in the city over the years.
The non-profit organization has been a staple in the Philadelphia community since the 90’s, specifically catering to the youth in predominately black communities. It’s mission is “to improve the quality of life and health for Philadelphians through community-based and culturally competent interventions.” In alignment with their mission, YOACAP offers a wide range of free services such as STD testing, HIV education, peer mentorship, help finding school/employment opportunities + much more. Though the main focus is on youth advancement, people of all ages and backgrounds can reap the benefits of these services and are also welcomed to volunteer at YOACAP. The organization hosts several community events throughout the city and is a safe place for many students from local schools.
When it was time to find an internship, I automatically thought of YOACAP. I wanted to take what I learned and was currently learning at Temple and share as much as I could with a younger audience. I found myself doing just that in my role as an Activities Leader. In this position, I was responsible for developing weekly lesson plans for middle school and high school aged students and hosted virtual and in-person classes on personal/professional branding. Every Wednesday after school hours, I would meet with about 10-15 students (via Zoom or at the office) where we would have discussions about “branding” and how it can help when building connections, both personal and professional.
We went over branding related topics, such as storytelling, which encouraged students to share relatable experiences through personal stories. We spoke about social media and how it’s a great tool for establishing yourself as a brand and speaking to people directly. Through many activities and conversations, not only was I able to teach some branding fundamentals, but I also learned the importance of being a mentor and friend to the youth, hearing them and letting them be their authentic self. I felt comfortable and at home with them and they too taught me a great deal, especially about current social media trends and pop culture news.
During my internship, one of my biggest fears became reality. My Grandmother passed away just two days after my birthday. My whole world was turned upside down and I honestly didn’t know how I would pull through mentally to finish out my time at YOACAP. My supervisor, Ebony, pulled me aside after one class and we had a real heart -to-heart conversation. She expressed genuine compassion and condolences for my loss and offered me as much time as I needed off from my internship duties to mourn/recoup. Ebony put my emotions, mental health and livelihood first before the demands of YOACAP. The students were also very supportive and understanding. This made me feel valued as more than just an intern at the organization. Not many employers care enough about employees and their overall well-being.
I shared this story because I truly believe in being appreciated wherever you decide to intern or work. There’s nothing like knowing your efforts and contributions are recognized and admired by those you work for or with. My time at YOACAP had more ups than downs, and the times I felt down, I had people around me who made sure I got back up and kept me on the right track. The main lesson I learned from this whole experience is that it’s possible to find a home within your workplace while enjoying what you do. I know now that even when I’m not at my best mentally, as long as I have a solid and supportive team, I can get through any hardships that may occur in my career. I’m more prepared to deal with unexpected misfortunes and still find a way to get the job done. I’m super excited to see where everything goes from here and I hope to find a “work family” similar to what I found at YOACAP!