It has been almost seven years since I began working with BYI. The more time that passes, the more invaluable my experiences with BYI become. I was 16 when a friend recommended that I get involved in the BYI Bozone Ozone Greenhouse Bus project (B.O.B), which was in its infancy at the time. Being a part of B.O.B, from bus demolition to teaching, changed my life in so many incredible ways. I was struggling to find clubs and projects within the public school system that would allow myself and other students to have limitless resources and creative freedom to achieve our goals. I felt stifled by closed minds and mentors with too little time. BYI’s mission to provide opportunities, mentorship and resources to youth in order to help them achieve their goals and connect with their community was a breath of optimism and excitement for me.
During my four years of working directly with the B.O.B program I gained leadership, writing, networking, team work, teaching, speaking, interviewing and communication skills. My interests in sustainability, agriculture, ecology and teaching blossomed because of the B.O.B program. I felt connected with my community, and still feel that connection. I felt more motivated and passionate than ever. Many of my friends became involved in BYI and we all made new friends along the way. We broke down social barriers as well as barriers to our goals.
At a time in my life when I felt lost and wanted to drop out of high school, BYI allowed me to pursue my interests. My work with BYI clarified what my interests were and I pursued a Bachelors degree in Agroecology as well as Latin American & Latino Studies at Montana State University. I will be graduating spring 2015 and continuing on to graduate school.
I was thinking the other day about what I am most grateful for from BYI. The list is incredibly long! BYI and the amazing people who have mentored myself and other youth’s along the way have changed so many lives in so many positive ways. All of the kids I’ve had the pleasure of creating, growing, and succeeding with in BYI have grown to be happy, powerful and successful adults. The network of friends and contacts I’ve gained by participating in various BYI projects to this day helps me succeed and connect in my community. Recently, as I face new obstacles in the next chapter of my life, I became aware of my ability and readiness to take on new projects and tasks, be it creating a new program or figuring out how to get a loan. Uncertainty and lack of knowledge does not intimidate me. Knowing how to navigate new obstacles and pursue new dreams is invaluable. BYI mentors and volunteers provided the framework, education, creative freedom and support that allowed me to learn how to start from square one and succeed.
I am fortunate to still be involved with BYI as an adult board member. I am so proud and inspired by each and every one of the programs and projects BYI, its mentors and its youth volunteers have created over the years. It is wonderful to watch new youth volunteers create and succeed with BYI every year and hear how that they feel the same way as I do about Bozeman Youth Initiative. BYI is the only non-profit in the Bozeman community of its kind, where youth are in control, are never told that something is too hard, too big or too irrelevant. Any youth from any background with any dream will find inspiration and support in BYI. I still find support and inspiration in BYI 7 years later.
I want to give a special thanks to Greg Owens, for being a friend and a mentor, no matter what.
Thank you to all of the adults who have graciously taken time to volunteer with BYI, you have made a difference in so many youth’s lives.