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by Rachelle Brown

In early May 2019, Youth Voices Matter-New York had the pleasure of participating and sharing resources at the Families Together Conference in Albany, New York. On the last day of the conference, there was a Youth Speaker Jam that took place that allowed young people in attendance to speak, share a poem, or an experience in his or her life in front of a large room of people.  While roaming around, looking for a snack to fuel me for the remainder of the conference, I, Rachelle Brown, Youth Program Specialist, heard a young person’s voice and poem that pulled me away from what I was doing and straight to the stage to not only hear what this young person was rapping about, but to see who this young person was.  This young person was sharing some much insight and personal experience in the art form of rhyme, rapping, and lyricism; that it honestly blew me away by the end of the piece. 

I immediately went to meet this young person while they were receiving hugs and love for such a wonderful performance and I proceeded to introduced myself.  “You were absolutely incredible!” I told this young person, which prompted an immediate connection. And on top of that, this was the first time that this young person EVER performed.  Wow, how amazing is that!! We exchanged contact information and have been connecting ever since. Let me introduce you all to Jayden Sway!!

RB: What is your artist name?

JS: Jayden Sway

RB: How did you come up with your artist name?

JS: My Sister came up with my artist name.  My sister (Peggy) said that I always had a “sway” about me, so she gave me the name Jayden Sway.

RB: How long have you been writing and rapping?

JS: I have been writing all my life; like short stories and journal entries for some time. I am new to rapping and have been rapping for less than a year.

RB: What inspires you to rap and pursue music?

JS: My sister always encouraged me to do what I loved!  Me and my sister would rap over the phone and via text for fun. Peggy is my biggest motivation and supporter on this musical journey.

RB: Tell me a little bit about the piece that you performed at the Families Together Conference.

JS: The name of the piece is called “Survivor."  I was struggling with some emotions at the time when I wrote the piece. I started to write while listening to Eminem and NF. While reflecting on the passing of my father in 2013 and not having great support from others in my life, I wanted to join my father. My father was the only positive figure in my life and with a history of trauma, I lost hope in life. Growing up, I have 14 brothers and sisters, who are my motivation not to give up in life. "Let me get to my next step and fight to be with my family…” and this caused me to have a change of heart and value life a little more and differently.

RB: Who are your favorite music artist and other influences in life?

JS: NF, Eminem, Drake are some of my Influence’s. Also, my good friend Lori (3yrs), my sister, Peggy, and my self

RB: How far do you want to take your music career?

JS: As far as I possibly can go. Selling out concerts in big arenas, stadiums, and touch others with my music is what I want to do.

RB: Tell me a little about your background.

JS: Growing up, I was adopted at 2 months old in 1998. Originally, I am from California and moved to Hawaii when I was 8 years old.  From there, I moved to New York when I was 18 years old.

RB: Describe your rap style or sound?

JS: My rap style is straight forward while still identifying and developing my specific sound.

RB: What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome so far?

JS: “Just Surviving! Looking back at my life, I could be gone. If it wasn’t for people like my sister, I wouldn’t be here, so just surviving.”

Jayden’s Accomplishments:

  • Jayden has a published book out titled, “Jayden Sway- In her own words” released in 2019

Find Jayden Sway on Social Media at the following:

  • IG : Jaydensway777

  • Facebook: Jayden Sway fan of 1212

  • Twitter: @fan12124

  • Snapchat: fanof1212

Bryan, Schenectady County

When I was 19-years-old, I remember my grandmother shouting at me with disgust and disappointment, "You're a drunk and a drug addict and that's all you'll ever be." Those words haunted me for a long time and for many years my actions seemed to prove my grandmother correct. Today, I now know though, that addiction is a disease. I am not just a ‘drunk’ and an ‘addict.’ I’ve always been a person, a human being just like everyone else. My addiction does not define who I am.

When I was 16-years-old, I was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and then sent off to my first rehab. Although I successfully completed my first rehab (and all countless others following), my addiction really took hold by the time I was 19. I was a teenager looking at serious prison time for the choices I had made in my active use. I was lost, emotionally bankrupt and completely numb.

Relapse is a part of my recovery process. There have been many times I have realized I needed help. Every time I’ve sought help with my addiction, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped me back to life. I have met beautiful people through 12-step meetings who have shown me love and compassion. I found a kinship with these individuals that all understand what I’ve gone through and continue to go through because they too, have felt the pain that I have as well.

Pain and later love were and are what continues to bring me back to life and on my recovery path. I of course, still have struggles, but today have a choice. I have always chosen to run and avoid my emotions by burying them with drugs and alcohol. Today, I choose to utilize the tools I have gained throughout my recovery journey to help me deal with my feelings.

I am able to be the son that my parents raised, and I am able to be there for my grandmother who once stigmatized me for my choices and who had lost all hope for me because I am now in recovery. Recovery works. It is possible. Today, I can be the light for others to escape their darkness because I have found my own. I am a sober man and today I am free.

Lindsay, Columbia County

My name is Lindsay and I am 22-year-old in recovery. What that means for me is that I have not taken a self-prescribed substance since January 19th, 2019. Recovery is new to me, but I am thankful I have found a solution to my problems with my addiction.

I started using substances when I was 15-years-old because I wanted to escape my current reality and didn’t know how to deal with my problems. It was my vice for as long as I can remember, and the disease of addiction runs in my family. I was taught early on that drinking was acceptable and something I was taught could be manageable on a daily basis.

For me though, this wasn’t the case. A little over a month ago, I was in a serious accident and was given my first DWI because of it. I hit my bottom that led me to my prospect. I felt lost and wasn’t sure what my next step should be, so I reached out to a good friend of mine who is active in the recovery community. He connected me to another female in recovery who met me at my first 12-step meeting a few days later.

Although reaching out and allowing myself the experience to find and begin my recovery process has been extremely frightening, unknown and uncomfortable, I am thankful for the support that has helped me through it. Continuing to step outside my comfort-zone and reach out for the support from countless individuals who understand where I’m at today has fostered my inner strength and spirit. This shared commonality with others has also been my light and is what continues to support me through my recovery journey. Recovery has allowed me to find my truth.

Rock-N-Ride Quotes



INSPIRATIONAL – “Rock-N-Ride Event was an awesome positive experience for all youth members and staff of the TC Commons Clubhouse in Elmira, NY. Rock-N-Ride’s Road Recovery and YVM (Youth Voices Matter) staff allowed the youth to feel SAFE – in a non-judgmental environmental, where they were themselves; to feel FREE – in having lots of fun in the sun; to feel OPEN – in sharing inspiring and heartfelt personal stories of pain, bullying, grief & loss; as well as, perseverance, resiliency, and strength; while living Above The Influence.” - Kernalia Andrews, BSW, MSM, Clubhouse Supervisor, Elmira, NY

July 13: CANANDAIGUA, NY - The Partnership for Ontario County at Canandaigua CrossFit:

“The Road Recovery Rock-N-Ride event at my CrossFit gym meant a lot to me. I think more often than not, most people in any community aren't exposed to the good others try to do for the world. At the end of the day I'm a coach, and sometimes I don'“The Road Recovery Rock-N-Ride event at my Crossfit gym meant a lot to me. I think more often than not, most people in any community aren't exposed to the good others try to do for the world. At the end of the day I'm a coach, and sometimes I don't realize how powerful exercise can be. I get to see that with organizations like Road Recovery that are trying to help make "in recovery from anything” voices heard like YVM (Youth Voices Matter) and our local Youth Clubhouse. Together they are changing lives and by extension changing the community and world we live in.” - Stefan Glover, Owner - Canandaigua CrossFit, Canandaigua, NY how powerful exercise can be. I get to see that with organizations like Road Recovery that are trying to help make "in recovery from anything” voices heard like YVM (Youth Voices Matter) and our local Youth Clubhouse. Together they are changing lives and by extension changing the community and world we live in.” - Stefan Glover, Owner - Canandaigua CrossFit, Canandaigua, NY

“Road Recovery’s Rock-N-Ride event was a wonderful opportunity for our EPIC Zone youth who have faced their struggles the environment to share their stories and solutions of hope with the Youth Voices Matter-NY team. And, move a muscle together with the Crossfit trainers. Thanks to our amazing young people, a powerful day of sharing and caring was experienced by all of us!” – Kelli Gage, Program Director, EPIC Zone: A Youth Clubhouse, Canandaigua, NY

“Road Recovery’s Rock-N-Ride Youth Voices Matter-NY (YVM-NY) event at CrossFit was a very powerful for experience for all of us from Epic Zone clubhouse, our staff, our youth members, including our cross fit trainer, Stefan. Stefan and I talked afterwards about the emotional impact of hearing the youth share and how much it charged our battery and got us excited to connect more with our community, especially our youth, and do more. Everyone left feeling inspired and empowered. It was an incredible afternoon! Thank you Road Recovery and YVM-NY for the opportunity to be involved!!”– Renae Campbell, Director – Epic Zone Clubhouse, Canandaigua, NY

July 15: OSWEGO, NY - Oswego County Opportunities at The Spot Youth Clubhouse:

“Rock-N-Ride at The SPOT (Sober Peers on Top) was a huge success with so many new faces and lots of familiar friends who showed up!. Road Recovery and the Youth Voices Matter team (YVM) gave our kids the floor to share their stories and experiences with the undivided attention of people who care; they felt accepted & supported and recognized that they are making a difference. All in attendance were profoundly impacted by how honest, open and brave our Oswego County youth are. Youth sharing their stories with other youth and supportive adults really highlights the youth-adult partnership we have at The Spot and Road Recovery’s Rock-N-Ride event made that crystal clear!” – Ellen Lazarek, Director, The Spot clubhouse, Oswego, NY

July 18: MASSENA, NY - Seaway Valley Prevention Council at Horizons Clubhouse:

“Our youth enjoyed listening to Road Recovery founder Gene Bowen’s life story and are very excited to follow his Rock-N-Ride cycling journey to the other OASAS youth clubhouses around New York State! Several youth mentioned they wanted to speak up to talk about personal stories but felt shy/nervous in front of everyone. Hearing from the Youth Voices Matter leaders Carlee and DJ together with Gene’s stories really inspired everyone and confirmed the fact that we are all in this together and have each other to lean on. Perhaps next time, we can have it outside and play a game!” - Courtney Patterson, Horizons Clubhouse Program Manager, Massena, New York

July 31: OTSEGO, NY - Friends of Recovery, Delaware & Otsego at Oneonta Teen Center:

“Road Recovery’s Rock-N-Ride with Youth Voices Matter movement (YVM-NY) brought with them an energy and an excitement surrounding that really helped the young people get into it. I was most impressed with how the youth responded to the group discussion time by opening up about issues and struggles in ways that were constructive and encouraging.” - Kaler Carpenter, Oneonta Teen Center, Youth Services Coordinator, Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties, NY (FOR-DO)

August 2: AMSTERDAM, NY - Creative Connections Youth Clubhouse:

"YVM and Road Recovery’s Rock N Ride event was a great success at the Creative Connections Clubhouse. The youth and staff were so inspired by Road Recovery’s Gene Bowen’s dedication to delivering the message about addiction and life long road to recovery. Gene’s metaphorical road to recovery described the obstacles and challenges, not only in his life, but of everyone’s struggle. His bike ride is testimony to his life every time he pedals forward.” - John Sumpter, Associate Director of Creative Connections Clubhouse, Amsterdam, NY

“Rock-N-Ride was a tremendous event here at the Creative Connections Clubhouse. Road Recovery’s Gene Bowen and the YVM team shared their amazing stories that were inspiring to all. Our members and staff were able to experience a display of passion and enthusiasm. We greatly appreciate Road Recovery and YVM for their efforts of bringing awareness to such an important topic in today’s society.” - TJ Czeski, Director of Creative Connections Clubhouse, Amsterdam, NY

August 15: BUFFALO EVENT - Restoration Society:

“Hello My name is Marsha West, I am the Program Manager for Clubhouse Buffalo in Buffalo NY. We hosted a Road Recovery Youth Voices Matter-NY (YVM) Rock N Ride event on Wednesday August 15th. I was nervous about the event not knowing what to expect, or how our youth would respond. I have to say it turned out beautifully! Our youth continued to discuss Road Recovery and the Youth Voices Matter-NY movement. Hearing Road Recovery founder, Gene Bowen’s story the 1000 miles he is riding his bike to meet and speak with clubhouse youth meant a lot to all of us! Our young people felt inspired to do something "big". I want to thank both Road Recovery and YVM team for the meaningful conversations that were brought out of our youth. They felt comfortable and not judged for who or where they are. That speaks volumes. You guys are so amazing with hearts of gold. It felt like a family reconnecting for a reunion lol. Thank you Road Recovery and YVM for allowing us to share in this experience with you. Stay safe and ROCK-N-Ride ON!!” - Marsha West, Program Manager of Clubhouse Buffalo, Restoration Society Inc

September 7: NEW YORK, NY - LGBT Youth Clubhouse:

“Road Recovery’s YVM Rock-N-Ride event at The LGBT Center Youth Clubhouse created an experience for youth to come together in community to share their voices, through arts, performances, and stories of recovery and resilience in a space that was safe, supportive, and celebratory... oh, and full of desserts! The youth appreciated the opportunity to be their authentic selves while connecting with friends new and old.” - Peter Karys, LCSW, CPP, Director of Youth Counseling & Support, Liam S. Cudmore, LMSW, Youth Clubhouse Coordinator

September 14: YONKERS, NY - YMCA of Yonkers Clubhouse:

“Road Recovery’s Rock-N-Ride event with YVM at the Yonkers Clubhouse was a power time for so many people from diverse backgrounds and experiences to come together and celebrate the journey of life.” - Donald A. Somerville, Director of Program Services, Yonkers Family YMCA

“Thank you Gene, Lisa, DJ and Carlee for coming to the Yonkers YMCA CH on Friday, September 14th and representing the Road Recovery, Youth Voices Matters organizations through the Rock-N-Ride Event. There was enthusiastic responses from the CH staff and CH members as well as the outside community partners and their participants who attended the event. The function was a way to support our community's youth and young adults who are committed to recovery, abstinence and self-empowerment. It was empowering to hear Gene, DJ and Carlee share their personal stories, which showed our youth that they are not alone as they seek to complete their life goals. More so, it was truly powerful to hear the youth share their personal stories about what it means to them to be clean, sober and do that through the creative platforms of song, rap, open mic and poetry. The experience was truly transformational to many as was shared later on after the event.” - Vincent Taliaferro, Program Director, Yonkers Clubhouse (YRC), Yonkers Family YMCA

“I felt that the Rock and Ride event was an eye opening experience.” -Peter Bail, 18

“I felt the some of the stories Gene shared about his history of addiction was sad.” -Aishea Jones, 14

“Rock and Ride was a nice experience.” -Jatea Carter, 16

“Rock and Ride’s Open Mic event was something new for me to see, I have never been to an open mic before. I enjoyed listening to people sharing their life experiences in a creative way.” -A’deyeme Bullock, 13

“Rock and Ride was a great experience, I heard stories that were true and touching, at some points it made me sad.” -Jesus Navarro, 15

“As a Clubhouse staff member I felt that the Rock and Ride event was awesome! Gene really has a way of sharing his story to the point that our Clubhouse youth to became vulnerable enough to share theirs. During the open mic portion our youth shared feelings, thoughts, challenges, and experiences as well it was to watch them share without fear of judgment. The event was freeing.” - Niema Knight, Recovery and Prevention Counselor, Yonkers, NY Clubhouse

‘The clubhouse isnt just a place

It’s a place I can call home

It’s a big dome

It protects me from danger

I made so many friends

And I know our bonds will never end

Because in reality I do

I care a lot

I wont lie, it many look like I don’t care

But know I actually do

It’s my home and I hope it becomes yours

Too’ -Yonkers, NY YMC Clubhouse youth participant

September 16: CATSKILL, NY - Mental Health Association of Columbia/Greene Counties:

“Sharing an intimate Rock n Ride on a Sunday afternoon with Road Recovery, Youth Voices Matter (YVM), Clubhouse Youth, and Staff was a genuine, real, down to earth experience that was full of discovery, hope, and good people. Time spent with the Road Recovery and YVM crew always leaves lasting impressions and we look forward to our continued, shared journey ahead. Thank you Road Recovery for your work (and bicycle journey) around the State! Action at its best!” - Kai Hillmann, CASAC, Director, Youth Clubhouses Greene County – Catskill, NY & Columbia County – Hudson, NY

September 21: FREEPORT, NY - Club H.E.L.P. - Long Island Clubhouse:

“On behalf of all the Club Help Staff and myself, I want to thank Road Recovery’s Gene Bowen very much for coming out on his bicycle and speaking at the event together with Youth Voices Matter! The Rock-N-Ride event was such an impactful time for us to reflect upon the true meaning of what the Clubhouse represents and what it's meant to be, for our youth. The staff were very much impressed by your words to our youth and want to thank you for this heartfelt discussion! You have all left an amazing impact in our hearts and minds, in letting the youth know how special and important each of their voices are and how there are always better options than drugs and alcohol. Thank you Road Recovery and Youth Voices Matter!” - Stephanie Silva, BA, Project Director, H.E.L.P. Services, Inc.