Travis Nunez: a BYC alum remembers

Written by Travis Nunez, BYC Alum and current volunteer.

Going into my junior year of high school, an idea was brought to a youth group gathering I attended. Little did I realize, how much it would affect my life until now.

Only a few months later, before we were on our immersion trip to Los Angeles. Ron Werner, our Youth Pastor at Nativity Lutheran, asked us how we would feel about including two other church youth groups in our trip. Some of us were terrified of the idea, while others, loved the idea of adding more folks to the trip.

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Travis Nunez, age 15.

I, at the time, was somewhere in the middle. I didn’t know what to expect until the day came to begin our trip. I met Donna Burklo and Greg Bolt, the youth leaders in their respective churches, First Presbyterian and Trinity Episcopal. There I was, with about 30 students around me, and I only knew about 10. Anxious, I hopped into a van with the students I knew. I figured I didn’t have to socialize with new people, but, as is usual with obnoxiously fabulous youth pastors, such exclusivity didn’t last long.

At our first rest stop the leaders asked us all to switch vans. I had to switch to a van with a bunch of teenagers I didn’t know. I tried to stay calm, but I was terrified. Looking back, I’m so glad I was able to push past my fear and jump into that van with teenagers from different churches. We clicked in a matter of minutes, bonding over our mutual love of roller coasters of all topics. We had such fun in our mixed vans, that we all refused to switch vans at the next stop and chose to continue the hours long ride in our diversified groups.

These few hours were my first experience of what BYC was soon to be. We ended up having an amazing trip that summer, filled with hard work, fun times, and even seeing Jake Gyllenhaal for 2.6 seconds in Hollywood (no big deal).

Going into that year, we started meeting at Common Table Downtown (now Wild Rose Northern Thai Eats). We’d have dinner together, catch up on our day-to-day lives, and end our weekly meetings with talks about life from our youth leaders.

 

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First BYC summer immersion trip, Travis in blue, second row, on right.

The following year, our summer immersion trip went to Washington D.C. There, we grew even closer as a community. That second year we met up at Looney Bean after hours every Monday night, having Bible Study at Dudley’s Bookstore once a month. Most teenagers say they hate Mondays, but I ended up looking forward to them because of BYC. It was awesome to be able to interact with others my age, who walked similar paths in life. They began to feel like extended family, and each week felt like a reunion. We were there for each other through thick and thin, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience… which is why I decided some years later to become a leader in the BYC.

I saw profound value in the Bend Youth Collective, particularly for kids like me, teenagers who perhaps did not fit the norms of a typical American teenager. BYC was a place where I could go and not feel judged, where I felt accepted, a place where I felt I was safe to be me.

Going into my third year as a leader at BYC I know working with these young people is a huge blessing. I made incredible connections with leaders and middle school students during my first years as a leader. I was asked in the fall of 2017 to further those relationships, and extend my journey to the high school students as well. I now spend two nights a week as a leader for BYC, engaging with young people, like my own youth pastors did with me when I was a teenager.

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White Water Rafting Bus ride, Summer 2017.

My goal as a leader is to accept everyone as they are, to embrace their true selves as humans beloved by God, and to let them know that they are not alone in their struggles.

I am so grateful for every leader, every student, and every BYC alumni that has ever been a part of my journey. You are the reason why I can feel proud to embrace and accept myself for who I am. As BYC continues to grow, we gather in new places, with new experiences, with new people, but one thing remains the same: our motto: “We love you already.” And, you know what? We do.

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6th Grade Ice-Cream Social, Travis with the hat in the middle, first row.

 

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