“If you want to change the world, start in your own backyard."
Photos by Megan Monday
Jesse | Appleton, WI
"I've been in recovery a little over 14 years. I reflect back to when I was a youth and I remember there were inspirational people in my life that just dropped little seeds. When I got into recovery, those seeds started to grow. Now I work with youth and people looking for recovery. Because of my own life experiences, I'm able to connect and really meet them where they're at and hopefully help them."
"I led an LGBT youth group for eight years and saw thousands of kids come in. Their resiliency was inspiring.
They're on the verge of getting thrown out on a weekly basis or they had no food...all the things that come with being part of a marginalized community. Many of them had tragic stories, but week after week they're coming in, they're connecting, they're learning. We had opportunities for those youth to step into leadership positions and we got to see some of them just take off. Knowing that I've had a small part in helping plant those seeds for them and impacting their lives...and that they made it through some of those really difficult years."
"As a youth I was in the Big Pals program. I got my moral compass and a lot of my values from that relationship. Even knowing the circumstances I was in, that family continued to welcome me in week after week for over seven years. Even when I was involved with the legal system, even when I had social workers, I had people that were just in my corner no matter what. That was really cool."
"What keeps me here, and what keeps me in Wisconsin is the capacity for good. The capacity for change. I always believed that if you want to change the world, start in your own backyard. That's what kept me in Appleton. Some days progress is an uphill battle, and some days you can really see the steps forward happening."
-Jesse (3rd generation) | Appleton, WI