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Meet Breyn Banks, 15. He’s a grade nine student at Vic High and sees himself as someone who “steps up when others step back.”

After good friend Serenity Marsh introduced him to Jump ‘N Start, an after-school youth program, Breyn learned to lead rather than lay around. “Now I can help create positive change in the same way as my own experience.”

Helping at-risk youth become more connected with their community and tap into activities that encourage mentorship relationships and build self-esteem, the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association’s Jump ‘N Start program received funding from United Way for the first time this year. With this new support the program will expand from George Jay Elementary and Central Middle School to Vic High.

This increase in services is due, in large part, to Breyn and Serenity helping the principal at Vic High find eight teens to commit to the program. Both wanted to help mentor others as they had been mentored through their high school years. “I love this program and the people I meet there. And I love the people who run it,” says Breyn.

More involved than ever, Breyn agrees his life is full. Rugby. Art. Improv. The Power To Be adventure program. There’s his work with Youth Creating Inclusion, the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event and fundraising for Easter Seals’ youth programs.

“I’m a yes man when it comes to volunteering. It’s a little stressful but it’s preparing me for a real work situation.” Breyn is toying with a career in paleontology, event planning or politics.

Mostly, he wants to share how this program changed him into someone who is helpful, reliable and keen to give back. “I know my family can’t afford my university education. My marks are okay (straight Bs with a valedictorian credit) but volunteering is the answer.”

And there is one thing he’d like to change about his community. “If I could, I’d create an opportunity program that helps employ teens like me.”