Bryan’s dad abandoned the family in Las Vegas when Bryan was just 4 yrs. old and his brother was only 2yrs. old. When he left, the loss of income caused the family to be evicted from their apartment. Bryan, his brother and his mom were forced to live in a van for several months. The young boys would walk around Las Vegas while their mom looked for a job. Money was hard to come by and Bryan’s mom had to scrape up change for food. After some time, his mom was hired at one of the casinos. “She could have abandoned us. Given us up for adoption.” Bryan said. “It might have made it easier for her to survive but she couldn’t do that. She would have never left us.”
After about a year, they were able to move from Las Vegas to Salinas for the promise of more opportunity. Bryan mom enrolled him in the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County right away. This was in 2007 and Bryan was six years old.
As a young Club member, Bryan was shy but found a way to make friends by playing pool. “The Club has changed a lot over the years,” he explains. “Back then, we played around most of the time. It was really fun!” Bryan enjoyed his early years at the Club but admits he needed more structure as he got older. “I actually prefer the structure,” says Bryan. “I feel proud of myself when I achieve my goals and the Club is helping me do that.” Bryan credits the staff with helping him stay straight and focused throughout his young life.
“Dave Nava was like a father to me,” he recalls. “I was a little trouble maker when I was a kid and Dave wouldn’t let me get away with anything. He’d call my mom in and the three of us would have a conference. Dave was just trying to get me to be better.” Although Dave Nava is no longer working at the Salinas Clubhouse, Brian and his mom maintain a great friendship with him to this day.
Dave, along with other staff members, saw that Bryan was a pretty responsible kid with great leadership qualities so they allowed him to join Torch Club at an early age. Bryan jumped into volunteering and community service work inside the Club. His grades had been decent but improved once he started working with Torch Club. He says his better grades were a result of Club Dollar motivation. “Club members would get Club dollars for having good grades and I was obsessed with earning Club Dollars,” Bryan confessed.
In his Leadership Groups, Bryan had the opportunity to participate in some inspiring activities. He was a member of Career Launch where he learned how to draft a resume and all about career opportunities and what it would take for him to pursue them. Bryan took part in Camp Old Navy where he and other Club Members spent a day at the Old Navy store in Salinas learning about retail sales, customer service, and product display.
Bryan’s little brother (age 14) also attends BGCMC. “My brother has a speech disorder and he takes special ed classes at school.” explains Bryan. “He is also really into playing the guitar.” Both Bryan and his brother have been involved with Guitars Not Guns and have taken lessons with staff for many years.
Having a solid relationship with BGCMC staff helped Bryan make good choices. “In middle school, I was approached all of the time by other teens trying to get me to join a gang,” he recalls. “They said it would make me a man. I knew I had options so it wasn’t hard for me to say no.”
While Bryan managed to avoid gang involvement, his life has still been affected by the wake of violence in the streets of Salinas. “I lost my good friend, Carlos Robles, to gun violence last year.” he reveals. “Carlos was coming home from football practice when a guy on a bike rode up to him and shot him.” Carlos was not in a gang but Bryan suspects that the shooter might have been. “When we had the peace march for Carlos, the part that hurt me the most was watching his mom…seeing how much she was suffering.” explained Bryan. Carlos’ eight year old sister still comes to the Club and sometimes she and Bryan just sit and talk about what happened. “It’s not even about gangs as much as it is about being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Bryan. “That is why I hang at the Club. because its safe.”
Loosing a friend who was such a competitive athlete, Bryan feels motivated to work hard in sports and he excels in golf. At North High, he is on the golf team and he was in the golf apprentice program at Youth on Course. Now, he is working at First Tee Monterey County.
As a High School Junior, he is taking some ROP classes with the intention of becoming a firefighter. “My mom always told me to do something honorable.” he says. He would like to attend Monterey Peninsula College so he can work on his degree while attending the fire academy. “I want to stay close to home,” he says. “I don’t want to leave my mom behind.”
Bryan also gives credit to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County and the staff. “The Club has kept us safe and given us opportunity,” he said. For Bryan, it is the staff/mentors that make the difference in the long run. He says, “Those mentor relationships are the truest benefit from being a BGCMC Club Member.”