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Young Adults Find Their Light Again

Young adults today face many trials and tribulations. Whether someone is struggling with their mental health and finding a fruitful support system or has hit a rough patch in their journey of self-discovery and wellness, life can be full of hardships. Vinfen’s newly launched Enhanced Young Adult Program (EYAP) team is here to help. With a comprehensive array of services for young adults, EYAP provides encouragement, guidance, tools, and resources to help find the light in life once again.

Beginning in November of 2019, EYAP was launched with oversight from Vinfen. EYAP consists of two Transition to Independence (TIP) outreach teams and YouForward, which is a Service Enhanced Access Center. The TIP outreach teams provide services ranging from developing self-sufficiency and interpreting social responsibility to the exploration of life choices and evaluating goals to around 120 Massachusetts Department of Mental Health eligible young adults between the ages of 16 to 26. YouForward is a place where any young adult can have immediate access to the center and its resources while experiencing a loving sense of community as well as housing, employment, and educational supports.

The EYAP team consists of Director of Service Kristi Joyce, EYAP Program Director Kelli Fowle, Service Enhanced Access Center Director Danisa Batista, Clinical Director Julie Ronaghan, Senior TIP Facilitator Maureen Viviano, and Peer Leadership Coordinators Wendy Mancia and Matthew Griffin. Currently, YouForward is the only access center in the Lawrence and Haverhill area, however the team remains hopeful of the expansion of access centers to help even more young adults.

Noralys, a strong young adult who has faced adversity in her life, found her family of support at YouForward. At the age of 18, Noralys found herself with a newborn and no support system. She needed help. She lost her home, became homeless, and did not know what to do. This all changed when she discovered YouForward. “I found support by attending events at YouForward with one of them being Parent’s Day,” Noralys shared. “I have been able to connect with youth just like me in focus groups,” she added.

YouForward has been Noralys’ rock during a very hard time in her life. The center was where she found her community and was able to receive housing support, find networks full of tools and resources, and pursue leadership opportunities in efforts to inspire others. Noralys wants people to know that life will get better, and one can overcome even the greatest of adversity with the right supports in life. “Now I am 20 years old and in a better position than I was years ago,” she voiced.

Noralys credits her success to having somewhere she could go where she could access helpful resources that she desperately needed. Life can be both harsh and cruel but having a team that genuinely cares about people and their happiness is incredible. Today, Noralys plans to become a registered nurse and pursue her passion for helping people. Listening to other’s stories and offering insight on how she remained resilient and prevailed is something that brings Noralys much joy. As a mother, everyday is a new and exciting learning experience, and Noralys wouldn’t trade anything for the ability to take care of her daughter and someday share her story with her. “I would love her to know that yes I struggled but that didn’t stop me from doing a lot of things that I wanted to do. I got my high school diploma, and I want to go to college soon,” she expressed. Currently, Noralys has her own apartment with her daughter and pays her own rent. She is ready to take on the world as she helps people to find their happiness once again like she did.

Stories like Noralys’ are what it is all about for the EYAP team. Peer Leadership Coordinator Wendy shared, “It’s amazing. How do I not keep going after listening to stories like that?” Wendy personally relates to Noralys and her life struggles. “For me, it’s a dream come true to help others get services that I couldn’t get,” she explained. Wendy believes in the power of EYAP and is a huge advocate for all the services and resources that are provided to young adults. She wants to provide life’s gifts of inspiration, connection, and support to those in need because she understands how hard it is without these life necessities.

EYAP’s Program Director Kelli couldn’t agree more and looks forward to future expansion and impact. “It’s been really energizing to see the excitement that the staff have, the help that they give the young adults, and seeing just how much impact these programs make,” she commented. “We just want to continue to listen to the young adult’s voices and continue to grow with what they see for the program.”

If you are interested in learning more about EYAP, please contact Kelli at fowlek@vinfen.org.