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TAY program provides youth with stepping stone

January 30, 2001

TAY program provides youth with stepping stone



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

TAY ProgramJason Perez and Michelle Sines are young but have already been through a lot.

After unhappy childhoods, they turned to drugs, eventually became homeless and spent a few months living on rooftops in Hagerstown, they said.

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Now engaged to be married and expecting a child, Perez and Sines, both 18, thought they had nowhere to turn.

Then they enrolled in the Transitional Age Youth (TAY) program, which is administered by Potomac Case Management in Hagerstown and funded by the Mental Health Authority.

The program aids people ages 17 to 21 who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses such as depression, anger disorders or Attention Deficit Disorder to make the transition to adulthood, said Patricia Pfeffer, TAY coordinator.

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Without help, "kids in this age group can fall through the cracks," she said.

Nearly a year old, the TAY program offers support groups, advocacy, intern placements, case management and mentoring.

"The world is hard and they try to prepare you to live in it," said Sines.

The program emphasizes "accountability and responsibility," said Pfeffer.

The program helped Perez get a full-time job at Phoenix Color and find a place to stay. It also provided the couple with a loan to pay their rent and buy pots and pans.

"They get you started but you have to do the rest," said Sines, who is learning parenting skills and will receive tutoring to help her read beyond a third-grade level.

"They helped us get food stamps and housing. We didn't know anything about that stuff," said Sines.

Both have been diagnosed with depression and had been drug dependent.

Because Sines is pregnant, the TAY program has helped her get clothing and rides to the doctor.

Participants in the voluntary TAY program can just walk in, or can be referred by schools, the Department of Juvenile Justice or churches, said Pfeffer.

Candidates meet with Pfeffer for an evaluation to determine their immediate needs and goals.

The program serves 12 participants at a time and has a short waiting list, said Pfeffer.

Each week the participants meet as a group with Pfeffer and talk about real-life issues. Last week the group discussed how to dress for a job interview and how to respond to questions posed by a prospective employer.

The TAY program also performs community service work and helped out at the Martin Luther King Center during recent a banquet held in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

Sines and Perez credit the TAY program with setting them on the right track so they can give their child a good life.

"We know it won't be easy but we would like to completely turn our lives around," said Perez.

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