Alumni Profile: Jennifer Bautista-Mata

Posted by: DVULI | May 28, 2024

by Ashley Noelle Ver Beek, Contributor 

► ALUMNI: Jennifer Bautista-Mata (Phoenix 2017)
► CURRENT POSITION: Area Director and Regional Trainer in Glendale, Arizona

Jennifer Bautista-Mata (Phoenix 2017) is a dedicated leader, mentor, and advocate for young people. She serves as the Area Director and Regional Trainer for Glendale Young Life program in Glendale, Arizona, where she has been on staff for 12 years. She holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership from Fuller Seminary.


What led you to youth work?

I didn’t have big dreams during my early years. It’s not that I didn’t want to live a good life, but growing up in a home with parents who both suffered from addiction was isolating. I lacked purpose. If you know anyone who struggles with addiction, it just feels very dark and hopeless. From a young age, I remember feeling very alone. I thought, “If I wasn’t here, it wouldn’t matter to anybody. It wouldn’t even matter to me.” I desperately needed a mentor or a positive role model in my life. When a friend invited me to attend a local Young Life group in early college, things shifted. Through the relationships I cultivated there, God changed me. He changed how I viewed my broken family life, my self-worth, and my future. Young Life is a beautiful picture of the kingdom, and I felt honored to be a part of that. I loved it so much that I joined the Young Life staff when I graduated college.


What are you most proud of in your work?

Glendale has a predominant culture of Hispanic and African American kids. On behalf of Arizona Young Life, Glendale brings this specific demographic to camp and to many of our large state gatherings. I’m intentional about cultivating a relational, familial culture with the young people I serve. This approach has sparked a positive cycle of empowerment and leadership investment that directly benefits our Glendale community. My passion lies in recognizing and elevating leaders of color, which is crucial for Young Life’s overall mission. As part of my role, I oversee multiethnic leadership training across Arizona. We identify youth adults who can participate in a two-year leadership cohort, like DVULI, with the goal of nurturing them to become future Young Life leaders and staff.

I’m in the process of hiring a full-time staffer. Kitty is a passionate 23-year-old who has been around Glendale Young Life since she was in eighth grade. Remarkably, she marks my first full-time hire in 12 years!

One evening, following a high school Young Life meeting, I offered a young girl named Valentina a ride home. To my surprise, I discovered she and her family lived out of their car. As Valentina navigated through various foster homes, I remained steadfast, driving 35 minutes each week to pick her up for club meetings. Despite becoming a young mother at an early age, Valentina persevered. Now, at 21 years old, she has two children. Throughout the years, I’ve stood by her side, ensuring she receives the support she needs. We connected her with Young Lives, our teen mom ministry, which provides a nurturing space and essential resources for young mothers and their children.

Our lifelong bond began with a simple act: driving her home from a youth group. Valentina embodies both motherhood and hard work. She exudes positivity for her children, even when faced with challenges. Despite difficulties, she remains the dependable, positive parent she never had. I truly admire her unwavering commitment.

My story changed when I found healing in relationships, learned to navigate trauma, and created dreams for myself and the community of Glendale. It’s an honor, and I am so proud to come alongside the youth to support them in the same transformational way.


How did your DVULI experience impact your ministry work?

When I joined my DVULI cohort in 2017, I was dreaming big for Glendale. We had previously partnered with another area with a higher financial status. I sensed it was time to break o on our own, and my cohort showed me that I could do it. They encouraged me to see myself as a capable woman, specifically, a woman of color in a predominantly white ministry.

I also realized I was unhealthy in my ministry—I didn’t have balance. I learned to invite people in to ask for help. Sometimes, there’s this loneliness to ministry and you say, “If I don’t do it, nobody will.” I’ve seen this beautiful picture of me asking for help and people going, “Of course, I would love to.” I’ve learned that asking for help is okay!

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