Why I Started BYEP

If my life had a mission statement (at least today) it would read:“Make The World A Better Place.”

Twenty years ago, I decided I would become a Mental Health Counselor. And that I’d focus my efforts on helping teenagers. Because every person I know over the age of 20 was a teenager at some point during their life, and most of them admit being a teenager was difficult, confusing, and often maddening.

After a few years of managing my own private practice, I decided 1:1 traditional mental health counseling with teenagers was (and, it turns out, still is) broken.

And here’s why:

  1. The majority of teenagers are forced to see a therapist (read: not voluntary)

  2. The therapist is required to diagnose the patient (read: deficit-based models rarely work)

  3. Therapy cost is high and the success rate is low (read: who takes that bet?)

  4. If you want to be a person that matters in a teenager’s life, you need to be in it for the long haul (read: a LOT longer than 10 - 20 hour-long counseling sessions)

I lost sleep knowing that I was actively participating in a model that was broken.

So I set out to create something different.

I made my way to the local bookstore and purchased ‘How To Start A Nonprofit’ (it included its own CD with document templates!), sent some paperwork to the IRS, and took the plunge into the nonprofit world.

We received our 501(c)3 status letter during the fall of 2001 and started running programs that same winter. Since then, BYEP continues to provide a mentoring program that truly works.

Here’s why:

  1. Every teenager voluntarily applies to participate in what we offer (read: they want to be here)

  2. We believe every teenager has the potential to make themselves and the world a better place (read: strength-based model)

  3. The cost per hour is low and our success rate is high (read: cost effective)

  4. We’re in it for the long haul. If you enter as an eighth grader and stay for four years, you’ll have 1440 hours of life-changing opportunity (read: a long time)

Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers and volunteers. Now I sleep well knowing that, collectively, we’re making the world a better place.