a safe space to be yourself

IMG_7316 Written by Adrian Gonzalez, 8th Grader. Edited by Leigh DeVries 

The Bend Youth Collective is a place where we are a community. When we meet, we become one. BYC is a safe place where you can express yourself and people will love you for who you are.  

We have fun at BYC and we try to be 4 things: Present, Open, Real and Kind….or P.O.R.K. We respect each others opinions and beliefs. As a part of a group, we try to include everybody, regardless of their background or what might be happening in their household.

I came to BYC to be part of a community. When I came, I felt warmly welcomed–everyone was friendly and I felt instantly included.  You can’t always be yourself in normal middle or high school settings because of bullying or general fear of people being mean. BYC is a place with no bullying. You might be LGBT and BYC will welcome you and include you. You might have mental illness and BYC will love you just the same.

At BYC we try to listen to each other. We pray for each other each week we meet. If someone is experiencing a rough time in their life, we all try help them through it.  If someone’s parents are fighting, dragging their kid on an emotional roller coaster, we pray for that person to experience better times with their family. Some people might have had a diagnosis of disease or might be struggling with financial needs. When we pray together, we share the weight of each other’s problems.  Talking and listening to the person who is hurting can change their day. BYC tries to do that.

BYC is also a place to have fun! Playing games like Gorgon and Gaga Ball is a way to unleash the kids’ wild pent up energy.  After all, the 6th graders need to blow off a little steam after being stuck in school all day…

Some days at BYC, we just play games and others we talk about the meaning of God in the Christian faith.  The leaders show slideshows on some of the stories in the bible or we do silly skits about the story.

I particularly love that BYC is many churches combined together, creating one big youth group. Taking all four of our churches and combining into one group helps mix and mash the views of different branches of the Christian faith. That way we get the ideas of all the churches combined and get to be together.

At BYC the leaders also don’t expect you believe everything they say. They let you have your own view on how to interpret the bible or think about God.  You can believe what you think your heart says. I think they are encouraging us to have open minds, trying to help us as teenagers to think for ourselves. Being part of such an open-minded community of people is helpful to me because it is a safe space to be yourself, where I can just be me.

IMG_7321
I’m the boy in the glasses in the middle.

When I was having a rough time in my life, they helped me through it. I am very glad that I came to the Bend Youth Collective and met so many wonderful people.  I hope that we will continue to grow and thrive as a community for many years to come.

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