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Back 40: Big Sky Youth Empowerment Project

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By BYEP Crux participant Bozeman High School 11th grader

I’m one of the many kids in Big Sky Youth Empowerment that hasn’t had a decent or stable home life. Ever since I’ve been able to pour milk into a cereal bowl, I’ve been taking care of myself. When I was little I couldn’t keep track of how many times we moved. Whether it was me being handed off by my mom to my grandparents or moving to places I could never call home, it was awful.

For a long time, my mom dealt with bad drug addictions. I never really understood what was going on with her until I was 13. My mom confessed to me that she was using meth. She knew I was immensely affected.

I faced a lot of challenges because I always felt alone, angry and ashamed of what life was for me. My focus in school lacked majorly, and I rarely asked for help from anyone. The only things that had meaning for me were my dad and volleyball.

Then, last year, I was introduced to Big Sky Youth Empowerment’s Approach Program by one of my friends. At first, I was shy with my mentors and the other five kids in my group because BYEP was a whole new experience. Then I began to open up. Every Wednesday, we did workshops that were based on things like trust, teamwork, and basic skills. My group started to bond as the season went on. On Sundays, we went to shred at Big Sky Resort, which is something I had never done before. It was amazing.

The three mentors (Mike, Stephanie and Brooke) were a big part of BYEP for me. They were the people that helped shape my thoughts about who I want to be; I finally felt like I wasn’t being ignored and that my thoughts and ideas mattered. I felt more at peace with myself because I began to understand that my mom’s problems weren’t my fault. The Approach provided a positive environment for me. After I finished the Approach, I knew I wanted to be in the Crux program. So I applied, got interviewed and was accepted after sophomore year.

The Crux provides the same basic structure as the Approach, but it helps older teens (juniors and seniors) prepare for the future. I’m stoked to be a part of the Crux because it encourages us to finish high school, which is now really important to me. We’ve learned a lot so far, like how to get into college, find a job, and learn what we want to do with our lives in the future. The Crux brings a lot of fundamental skills to the table that kids our age need.

BYEP’s programs have the power to turn kids’ problems into life opportunities. I’m so thankful that BYEP has become a part of my life.

Megan Paulson is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Outlaw Partners.

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