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I wanted to do something similar to what my spiritual parents did. Because of my own story of growing up in an immigrant family and a single parent household with financial struggles, I wanted to bring positive impact into someone else’s life.

Peilei came to faith through a friend who brought her to church, where she met the people who would become her spiritual parents. Her experience with her spiritual parents and the ways they loved and cared for her motivated her to look for a place where she could also exemplify God’s love in action.

In 2018, Peilei took an accounting job in the Bay Area and through her church, she heard about BCM’s mentoring program for teens. As a BCM volunteer, Peilei helps foster a safe community for students who are going through difficult life circumstances. She gets to be part of their breakthrough moments as well as everyday life. There are a few students she has developed deeper relationships with, and she has also served as a math tutor, providing academic support.

At times, it has been hard to hear some of the stories of what students have gone through. I see a lot of brokenness. The students experience a lot of difficult things. Sometimes they ask ‘why is this happening to me; why do I have to go through this?’ I don’t have an answer. Life is hard and everyone goes through trials, but what makes Christians different is that we have hope in the Lord, the eternal hope that cannot be taken away by this world, the ultimate redemption through Christ Jesus. Trusting God will fulfill our deepest needs; He is there and will carry us through.

As the students open up, Peilei sees them becoming more aware of how God has shown His grace and brought them fulfillment and support. She sees their willingness to ask for prayer or turn to God in prayer themselves. Through BCM, they have been introduced to a God who knows and loves them intimately.

Peilei saw one student gain confidence and grow tremendously during his time at BCM. When she first met him, he never started a conversation. He would sit along the edge of the table and not talk, trying to avoid conversations. Slowly he became more comfortable and now he shares his thoughts and even asks others how they are doing.

At BCM, God has also been at work in Peilei’s life.

God has taught me to be uncomfortable and helped me to see blind spots. I’ve learned that I often go into a situation with an assumption about culture and there are times I have come across as offensive or said or done dumb things. One time, a student brought to my attention that something I said was offensive. I appreciated her courage in speaking up, it was a big indicator of her growth and it allowed me apologize, learn and grow.

As Peilei looks ahead to a new year of ministry, she shares, “I hope to be more bold in sharing the Gospel. There are a lot of challenges the students face that point to the needs of the soul and knowing a Savior. I want to share about the eternal hope we have in God. I hope that I can serve with wisdom and sensitivity to God’s timing.”

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The CREATE program is often most known for its Robotics component, but it is in fact geared towards introducing students to the entirety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Create Academy, a five-week summer program, differentiates itself from other learning programs by its focus on exposing students to the kinds of possibilities and experiences in STEAM careers that they would otherwise not get. Students learn about scientific concepts through fun and creative activities alongside more familiar academic work in the mornings. In addition to STEAM exposure, students also grow in confidence and envision a brighter future for themselves as they are taught and mentored by young leaders from the community.

Waniya Bryant, Create Program Manager, is especially appreciative of the wholistic aspect of Create Academy. The most exciting part of the program, both for Waniya and the kids, is the showcase at the end of the five weeks. During this showcase, students get to display everything they did during the summer, which can include projects and talents as varied as dances and piano pieces.

Waniya has been a long time resident of East Palo Alto, and attended BCM’s programs herself when she was younger. She speaks of the conviction that this kind of experience and legacy has given her (while she keeps an eagle’s eye out for her little niece, who was barreling head first across the parking lot whilst rapidly consuming Cheetos):

“There’s one kid who was in the 5th grade when he started coming to CREATE, and is now going into 8th grade. Recently, an aquatics director at the YMCA (one of our partner organizations) told me about him passing his swim test, and his growth over the years. He was so tiny, and now he is our oldest kid! It’s amazing to watch their growth in many areas, and I’m so glad to share that some of them are now more enthusiastic about STEAM.”

Growing up attending BCM activities is a common experience for other leaders in the CREATE program. Yoyo, an intern with BCM, grew up attending Kidsmart and Streetworkz. She was also a Create Academy student, and found it so fun that she wants to now replicate the experience that she had for the next cohort of kids:

“I had a lot of fun here and I want them to enjoy it, enjoying it to the point that they're sad that it’s over. The teachers make learning really fun and interesting, and they have a different teaching style than at school. They're more creative in how they teach.”

Yoyo’s experience with CREATE motivated her to consider careers involving math, or even teaching: “I was a kid who shied away from math, but I found it useful and did the little quizzes and I remember wanting to keep learning math, and want to try better next time. I also want to come back as a teacher, and I want to create my own way of teaching. I might try out teaching as a career, who knows!”

Two other summer staff with CREATE, Ana and Sofia, lent some of their lunch time to speak about the creative teaching they received when they were participants. They particularly remember the “poop workshop”, which was a class about the digestive system where the kids took full advantage of asking questions about the mystical processes behind poop and pee. Besides these funny moments, they also recall overhearing the kids encouraging one another in their work and to do the right thing, exhibiting values BCM teaches.

As a classroom leader with CREATE, Sofia actually found the skills she learned from another BCM program, LiT, to come in handy:

“BCM helped me with my independence and my self identity, and helped me to step into a leadership role. I’m in charge of watching children and giving them instructions, and I can now put my foot down. I didn't know how to set boundaries before, or even acknowledge the need to set boundaries.”

These four leaders in this summer’s CREATE program are a testament to the value of CREATE—either as participants themselves when they were students, or as staff who are continuing to grow and invest in the next generation of community leaders. .

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I have been involved in BCM’s programs since the 4th grade. I first got involved with Bible Club and after I was old enough, I went to StreetWorkz. In high school I became a part of LiT and have grown tremendously and was even the banquet speaker in 2018. With the help of BCM, I was able to obtain my first job as a high school intern for CREATE Academy. I also volunteered at events like Serve Day with Menlo Church.

With BCM’s support, I have been able to develop my leadership skills to positively impact my community. At a BCM retreat, my leadership encouraged peers to share their hardships. I showed vulnerability by sharing my story first and this helped others feel comfortable. My commitment to the program, even when there have been changes in program management, reflects my ability to adjust and continue to lead younger members of the group.

At BCM’s annual banquet, I spoke to over 300 people about how BCM helped me during difficult times. When I was onstage, I became emotional from past hardships. The support I received was unexplainable, and in that moment, I felt true joy and hope for my future. I also talked about my personal aspirations and was overwhelmed with encouragement. BCM has helped me with countless situations and especially helped my family during COVID-19 when my mom tested positive for COVID. Leadership is difficult to cultivate as a minority student, but my eight years at BCM helped me become the supportive leader I'm proud to be today.

As a daughter of immigrants, I feel compassionate toward people of color and immigrants who endure discrimination because of their identity. My sister is in prison, and my eyes have been opened to the injustice people face in the criminal justice system. I felt helpless watching my sister and my family. I realized that if I work hard to become a lawyer, I can help my family and help others needing a voice.

After research and reflection, I decided to become a criminal justice lawyer. This would enable me to speak for people who, like my family, have little formal education and are powerless in the justice system.

Women like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who have similar backgrounds as mine, give me hope and strength to work hard inside and outside of school. At home, I strive to be a role model for my younger brother. Regardless of my circumstances I have learned to embrace my identity and chase my goals.

Like many minority students who have fewer educational opportunities, I have struggled with self-confidence and my academic potential. Yet, despite not having the same educational background as many of my peers, I have pushed myself to take and maintain an A in my AP classes my senior year. I am taking AP English Literature and AP Spanish Language and Culture because both classes will help my career as a lawyer. I have also been in AVID since sophomore year. I take advantage of opportunities at my school: meeting with teachers regularly, attending the tutoring center, and reaching out for help.

I’m part of a low-income family, and that part of my identity can be stressful. One example is helping my mom with my brother. Sometimes I have to interrupt my own work, but helping him has also made me more organized. I know how to manage my time while also prioritizing family bonding. My younger brother has no role model who has gone to college, and I want to help him realize he does not need to go down the same unhealthy path as my older siblings. My future in college will change our family because they will see that our past does not determine our future.

My challenges as a first-generation Latina American who’s dealt with poverty and a sister in the prison system could have kept me down. Instead, they pushed me to step up as a leader, go above and beyond to get good grades, and maintain my goal to help others. My ability to dream big despite my circumstance motivates my fight for justice. I want to change the system, so that it does not treat prisoners as less than human and gives people opportunities to succeed. As a lawyer, I will fight for underrepresented people, give voice to the powerless, and give back to my community.

Overall BCM has been my support system over the past several years and has helped me change my life around. Without BCM I could have ended up in the same path as my older siblings. I am extremely grateful that even with this new chapter in my life that my community at BCM will be able to support me.

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