Gary Ivory begins his new job this month as President of Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Inc., a Harrisburg-based national not for profit that provides communities with alternatives to detaining and placing young people in inpatient treatment facilities.
The new role is a promotion that comes 30 years after the former prison chaplain and son of East Texas farmers joined YAP as a frontline youth attorney, a press release said. Ivory's passion for social justice is rooted in Pittsburg, Texas, where he lost three of his 14 siblings in prison as a child.
"I am honored, humbled and excited to slip into the role of President of YAP at such a pivotal moment in the growth of our organization and our nation's history as social justice moves through much-needed change," said Ivory. “As systems seek to replace outdated institutional justice and social services with safer and more racially fair alternatives at the community level, we will continue to strengthen our model, support it with more data, and improve our education. We urgently need to attract and improve sustainability from donors, build more strategic partnerships and speak out to tell the success stories of those we serve. I look forward to leading this effort. "
Working with juvenile justice, social services and other systems in 29 states and the District of Columbia, YAP employs and trains neighborhood lawyers to provide community-based youth and family services as an alternative to juvenile prisons and other facilities. of-home placements, the press release said.
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As more communities advocate reform, YAP is experiencing remarkable expansion, in large part due to Ivory's work in introducing the evidence-based model of organization to system leaders and funders. For him, YAP's mission to provide young people who would otherwise be institutionalized with tools that are beneficial to their communities is personal.
“One of my brothers, Theodore – we called him Sonny – was 15 or 16 years old when he attacked a man in the cotton fields. I understand that he protected my mother from abuse by a white guard. The guy died six months later, "Ivory said in the press release. “(Charged as an adult) Sonny was sentenced to life imprisonment in a Huntsville prison. When I was in middle school, he died and they released him. But they sent him back a few years later for a parole violation. After serving 20 years, he died in my senior year of college. "
The experience with Sonny and the imprisonment of two other Ivory brothers was a dark cloud that hung over the family. "What happened to Sonny and the racial trauma that went with it had a huge impact on my life in many ways," he said. “I wanted to help young people – fight for justice. My belief has fueled my commitment to seek justice for those imprisoned and to prevent young people from being imprisoned in the first place. "
YAP's trained lawyers in the neighborhood help young people identify and build on their strengths, and provide their parents / guardians with tools and resources for basic needs to solidify the family's foundation.
RELATED: The Harrisburg-based program contributes to the initiative to find "Effective Alternatives to Locking Children".
Ivory, who previously served as a senior executive for the national nonprofit organization, manages business and fund development, strategy, marketing, communications, finance, legal, and other key executive functions. Ivory will also retain management of YAP's Tom Jeffers Endowment Fund for Continuing Education. In honor of the founder of the national nonprofit, the fund relied primarily on employee funds to provide professional training and college grants to thousands of YAP participants and their families during and after their program participation.
Jeff Fleischer, who joined YAP in 1985 and has led the organization for the past 18 years, will continue to serve as chief executive officer, shifting his focus to political, advocacy, fundraising and strategic partnerships across the country, according to the press release.
"Gary worked with YAP for 30 years to transform hearts and minds across the country and convince stakeholders not to invest in detention centers, prisons and internships outside the home and to invest in a robust continuum of community care," said Fleischer.
Prior to joining YAP, Ivory was a chaplain in the role of minister for minors in New Jersey (formerly Trenton) State Prison. He is a graduate of Austin College and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1996, Ivory was one of 10 national leaders to be awarded the Annie E. Casey Foundation's prestigious Child and Family Scholarship, an intense and highly selective leadership development opportunity.
For more information on YAP, click this link.