Success Stories: Kids Like Us



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Success Stories: Brianna Polk

Happy on the outside, angry on the inside, that was me. Even though I was known as the happy and strong kid, behind my smiling face was pain and sorrow.

I started out in life pretty good. I had two parents and one older brother, but at a very early age I discovered my mom had a drinking problem. She would try to cover it up by saying, “It’s just juice” or “I’m only drinking a little.” But I knew there was more to it. She would sometimes share her 40oz. beer with me. I was only about 5-years-old at the time.

My mom’s drinking problem worsened. She regularly had seizures and one night she slumped over my shoulder with her eyes rolling back in her head. My dad called the doctor and took her to the emergency room.

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Success Stories: Alex Montero

When I was 13-years-old my friend, Michael, told me about Youth Venture. He went to the YV on Broadway in El Cajon and the After School Bible Club at Cajon Valley Middle School. I started going to Youth Venture with Michael whenever my mom would let me.

Eventually I started going through Youth Venture’s mentoring program. I learned about God and who Jesus was and that God had a plan for me! I had never heard anything like this before.

I never knew my dad. My mom – who is a cool lady – raised me. The only father I knew was my step-dad who was a drug addict. Eventually my mom left him so there was no father in my life. Suddeenly I was hearing that God knew me and cared about me and even had a plan especially for me – available through Jesus Christ. By the end of the third lesson when my Youth Venture mentor asked, “Do you want to invite Christ into your life?” I said, “Yes!”

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Success Stories: Shane Blafield

“Growing up I had many problems at home. My older brother would get angry and leave for a while and my parents were always fighting. It was really confusing so I didn’t think much of it. Around age ten or so I started realizing my mom was an alcoholic. When I was twelve years old my parents got divorced. My heart was crushed and questions stirred in my mind as my mother’s drinking problem got worse and worse. Would her life be easier without me? Would they get back together if I wasn‘t here? My mom began to blame her drinking on us. “You’re driving me to drink!” she would say.

In seventh grade, a good friend who is still my best friend introduced me to Youth Venture. My first day there I met some awesome people who showed me love that I didn’t have and that I thought I didn’t deserve. I started doing Youth Venture lessons and LOVED them!! I couldn’t stop. I gave my life to Jesus on my third lesson with a mentor named Kevin Miller.

From that point on I was completely changed.

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Success Stories: Troy Hollinger

My life growing up was always hard. But it seemed to hit a low point when I was 12. My parents were split up and my mother had another boyfriend. My father was in prison and I only saw him rarely on certain visitation days and even then there was always a glass window between us. I lived with my mother and two sisters in a run-down apartment in El Cajon. We lived on welfare but there was seldom any food in the refrigerator because my mother had an addiction to crystal meth. There was no structure to my family or my life.
When I was in 7th grade my friend invited me to Youth Venture for the first time. It was a place where a lot of the kids in the neighborhood hung out. Although it was full of pool tables, video games and more what drew us back again and again was that they let us break dance. Break dancing was really important to my friends and me. We tried to dress like the more famous break dancers and emulate the way they talked and danced. We must have looked strange to the adults who volunteered to work at Youth Venture. But because (as I later learned) they really cared for us they made a place for us to dance by sectioning off an area, getting us a stereo system and even sponsoring us as a team.

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Message from Mark

As you may remember, our YV and Higher Ground programs and materials were introduced to Kenya 3 years ago. Since then the growth has been quite amazing. Last year in just 2 cities our YV clubs were in 28 schools with nearly 5000 students, led by 18 pastors report testimonies of how whole schools are being transformed. In August we were able to send a team down to train 180 pastors in several additional cities. Many of these pastors committed to starting YV clubs in the schools of their cities. In addition, hundreds of young people attended 3 youth conferences we put on. These kids will form the nucleus of the new clubs that will be developed. In Kenya, 60% of the population is under 21 years old so our YV Bible clubs are an exciting avenue to reach Kenya. Currently our YV materials are being translated into Spanish to be introduced into Mexico and Cuba. In addition, we collaborated with pastors in Leesburg, Florida who have recently opened a large teen center in their mall based upon the YV model. It is so exciting to see the principles and materials of Youth Venture being used across America and around the world.

Message from the Director

 I often wonder how my life might have been different if there had been a Youth Venture in my neighborhood. I am so grateful for all of the volunteers who give so much of their time and love to make a difference in these kids’ lives. Everyday we meet kids who are dealing with such difficulties, and Youth Venture becomes a light to help show them they way through. Youth Venture shows that there is so much more to life than what they see around them. The volunteers at Youth Venture become mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters to these kids and Youth Venture becomes a second home to them. Youth Venture gives them a safe place to escape the temptations and troubles all around them, and a place to find answers to their questions. I am so grateful for the kids we are able to reach, but I know that there are many more neighborhoods and many more kids who are searching for hope but there isn’t a place like Youth Venture around for them to go to. I look forward to the day when we see centers like Youth Venture springing up in cities and neighborhoods all around us. It is so exciting to be a part of this adventure with you in reaching  these kids. You make all of this possible and I am eternally grateful.