I will always be a Y kid! — Grayson Jennings
"Growing up, I knew that I was better off than many, but knew that I was less fortunate in some areas of my life than most. My parents were separated. For my sister and I, our home life was less than secure emotionally, and oftentimes we were left feeling like we had nothing except each other. Watching my camp counselors "chug the jug" (a mystery mixture of refrigerator condiments) on Monday mornings at day camp as we prepared to go to the pool, I never could have imagined the family and community I would receive through the Y.
I remember voting on what beach we would go to on Friday for adventure camp, and even getting my rag tied at Camp Arbolado. I remember transitioning from Camper to CIT, and from CIT to Counselor. I remember river rafting four years in a row at our year end kern river camping trip for PILOTS. And I remember drafting bill, that would place recycling bins on all main city streets, and arguing for it, in the state senate chambers for Youth & Goverment.
As I transitioned from elementary school to college, through scholarships, fundraising, and prayer, the Y remained an integral part of my life. From complaining to my parents who made me go to summer camp, when all I wanted to do was sleep in and play video games like my friends. To my parents complaining to me that they were waiting in the parking lot way too long after one of our mid week Y&G services. From not wanting to go, to never wanting to leave, the Y became my home away from home, and my safe place.
The Y taught me that some of the best things in life often come at a cost, but are worth fighting for, no matter what that cost is.
It taught me how to listen when I didn't want to, and to lead when I knew that I needed to. It taught me the value of service, putting the needs of others before my own. It taught me to be strong, bold and courageous. I learned that in every venture, all things should be handled with diligence and excellence. Whether it was taking out the trash at tree lot in December, or studying for my finals at Verdugo Hills in May. It instilled in me a value to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and a commitment to better the communities around me.
I graduated as Valedictorian of Verdugo Hills High School in 2011. I then moved on to LA Mission Community college, and later finished my degree at Life Pacific University. It was there that I graduated magna cum laude with my Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies in 2016. I have worked for the past 3.5 years at Media City Church as the Youth and Worship Pastor.
As a pastor, my calling is to show the love of God to any and everyone, with a commitment to bettering my community, one relationship at a time. I enjoy every aspect of my job, including preaching, leading worship, and even developing policy for our organization, yet my favorite aspect of my job still remains people. I love getting to hear people’s individual stories. To stand beside them in celebration, and with them in sorrow. To be a mentor, a voice of wisdom, and even a friend, as some of you here in this room were for me. To give opportunity to young people to serve, and to grow into the individuals God has called them to be.
All though I am certainly no longer a child, I will always be a Y Kid at heart. My story is but one, and my journey is unique to me, yet the YMCA will always hold a place as a pillar of confidence in my formation as an adult and as a leader. My ask is that my story would not be seen as a goal to be met, but rather as a story to be celebrated. My heart is that there would be countless other stories long after mine that would serve as continued encouragement and reason as to why the YMCA does exactly what it does. My hope is that the children, youth, and young adult programs would remain at the core of the YMCA’s focus, and would continue to change lives as it always has, and as it has with mine."
Grayson Jennings is the Youth & Worship Pastor at Media City Church in Burbank, California.