Written by Mollie Glover, a current BYC Sophomore in class of 2020
Bend Youth Collective means many things to me. When I explain it to other people I simply say “my youth group” but it is so much more than that. Those three words can’t explain the sense of community and support I get from the people here. The staff and the group of kids accept me as I am, as they do to everyone else who is a part of this community. This is a place where I’m not afraid to open up and be myself, because the atmosphere is so kind, accepting, and supportive. I know that the people here will listen to me when I need listening to and vice versa. I’m able to open up.
In this safe place, I’m allowed to be myself. I can laugh until I can’t breathe – and not my fake laugh; the real one that sounds like bird – and no one will think twice about it. I can cry if I have to and I can take a break if I need one (although being with these people always seems to cheer me up). I can speak my mind without fear of judgment. I can embark on new journeys with the support of my community to back me up.
I think maybe I’m making this sound like group therapy which, of course, it isn’t (unless you need it). This community has lots of fun. When I think back on my summer, the first memories to pop up are the incredible experiences I had on our immersion trip to Seattle. I remember laughing with new and old friends alike and exploring the city with a group of people who mean a lot to me. Even in the stress of the school year, we have fun. On our annual retreat this year, we had bonding experiences and plenty of free time to enjoy ourselves, something we as teenagers don’t get all that often. And during our weekly meetings, we have plenty of entertaining activities planned. Experiences with BYC help me personally unwind from stress I have in my life.
Bend Youth Collective has also helped me grow as a person. It’s helped teach me about community; how to be a part of one, how to grow one, and even how to build one. I now know that when you give something to a community, you’ll get something in return, even if it’s just the satisfaction of seeing it flourish. Because of Bend Youth Collective, I’ve learned to navigate the world with an open mind and an open heart. God wants us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and BYC taught me how to do exactly that. Even if I have my differences with someone, I look to see where they’re coming from and regard them with love, thanks to BYC.
Before BYC, if someone said the words “youth group”, I’d think of a group of teenagers either with nothing to do or something resembling a cult. After Bend Youth Collective, I think of more of an army of teenagers, all diverse in their personalities and strengths. I think of them all supporting one another and marching into the world; not like an army of war but an army of love.