This school and community-based service-learning initiative provides opportunities for teens to develop their skills as they implement social action service projects to address issues in their communities.
Since 1979, the Nassau County Board's Youth Adult Participation Project (YAPP) has trained young people and adults to take a leadership role in their communities and throughout New York State. The project was founded on the premise that services for young people would be more effective and successful if young people were part of the identification of issues and the planning, development, implementation and evaluation of services. YAPP works to dispel the belief that "children should be seen and not heard."
The YAPP model focuses on youth empowerment, building successful youth/adult partnerships, experiential education, valuing diversity and community service learning. The youth and adults who volunteer their time make a minimum of a one-year commitment.
Each year, YAPP recruits 40 young people, representing a cross section of youth from across Nassau County, to participate in the program. Participants represent all ability levels and a diversity of racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Program participants undergo a year of training in such areas as diversity appreciation, conflict resolution, effective leadership, problem-solving and communication training. Each participant undergoes a peer interview process as they advance to more and more levels of responsibility and ownership in the program. Participants successfully completing the program spend the next two years applying what they have learned in the YAPP Caucus.
Caucus members serve on the Nassau County Youth Board, the Youth Advisory Committee of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service and other boards of neighborhood-based youth development agencies, assisting in the planning, design and implementation of youth services. They also conduct trainings on such issues as leadership and valuing diversity for agencies and schools throughout the County, State and nationally at such conferences as the Annual Service Learning Conference.
The community service learning activities have an impact beyond program participants. On a global scale, YAPP members have successfully advocated for the passage of a bill enabling 16- and 17-year olds to serve on the boards of directors of not-for-profit youth serving agencies. In addition, they have run county-wide youth speak-outs on suicide and teen pregnancy, produced documentaries on violence, a rap music video focusing on the importance of unity and performed traditional community service activities.
Over the years, YAPP has cultivated more than 700 young people and adults as leaders and provided them with the invaluable experience making a difference in their lives and that of the broader community.