Success Stories: Kids Like Us



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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: 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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Success Stories: J.H. 15 years old

When I was in fourth grade life started to get tough. My parents would yell and fight, my dad would come home drunk and I couldn’t sleep at night.  At school I started to care what people thought about me because I wanted to fit in. I became a bully and started picking on kids.  Eventually my parents divorced and this was really hard for me. One day at school I was very upset and a classmate told me about Youth Venture. The Santee center is close to the school so I decided to go. When I walked in I knew the place was different. The staff was super nice to me and there were all kinds of fun activities. Things I never could do at home. I made new friends and I wanted to hang out at the center rather than be at home.  John Shippam, who was the center’s director at the time became my mentor. We went through the YV Mentor lessons every week. I gave my life to the Lord and things got better. Although my parents still fought, I had another place to go where people were not drunk and didn’t fight.  After some time I became a Junior Staffer, a student leader who helps at the center. This gave me even more reason to be at Youth Venture with the people I loved and I really wanted to help others who had similar struggles to mine. I’d come a long way from the bully I once was.  Jesus Christ used Youth Venture to change my life in amazing ways. Now, I’m in tenth grade and I help with the Christian Club at West Hills High School. I lead worship for a junior high and high school group. I plan on going to college and [...]

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Message from Mark

What a wondrous year! Youth Venture has concluded its most effective year ever. At our centers we have done record numbers of mentoring lessons, we have distributed over 10,000 copies of our Kids like Us testimony books to area youth- over 4,500 through our on-campus Higher Ground Clubs. We have translated our mentoring lessons into Spanish, trained over a hundred Pastors and youth workers from across Cuba and have provided the lessons for them to use all over the island. We have also assisted in opening a youth center in Ensenada, Mexico, helped to outfit it with games, and supplied the mentoring materials. In Kenya, 10,000 youth are being reached through Youth Venture clubs in dozens of schools and four teen centers.

Message from the Director

 photo 3bcb41de-1026-4b54-abea-19429568949d_zps5d3dc2cb.jpgEveryday, I am reminded of the impact of Youth Venture in kids’ lives and how important the work we are doing truly is. As I hear kids’ stories, the hurt and pain they’ve experienced, and the healing and hope they found through the love of God at Youth Venture, I am reminded of how many people it takes to make all of this possible. I wonder how many hours served by volunteers, how many dollars donated, how many meals served, how many acts of love and selflessness, are reflected in each one of their testimonies. For many of these kids, it takes years to see the fruit of all the love that has been invested in their lives. And it is worth every bit. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing men and women who, in so many different ways, make this all possible. The testimonies of transformed lives go on and on, and continue to grow every day. And you are a part of it. It is impossible to measure the eternal impact that every little bit has but I am so grateful for each one of you that makes this all possible. We couldn’t do it without you.