Part 1 of our series “Strong Finish” talks about the first tool you need to end the year right and start the new one successfully: take risks. Regardless of how your 2014 started, it’s the finish that matters. Travis Wise kicks off this amazing 4 part series by showing you the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and what will happen when you do.

They say there is a time of greatness in everyone’s life. A time where the passion you feel or have for something meets your goals for success and a career…

As a young black man native to Baltimore MD it can be hard to navigate your way through the pit falls and traps the streets have waiting for you. As a young gay black man it’s even harder to navigate life living an “alternative lifestyle”. I was about 22 years old when I was first introduced to community work dealing with gay youth. Although I was still young myself my experiences of growing up in the hood of Baltimore made me a quick learner and a fast thinker. Having gone through the hard and difficult process of coming out or more like being figured out, I had a unique take on the coming out experience and I wanted to use my experiences to help other young guys who had challenges with accepting themselves and the family dynamic that comes with it.

After dipping in and out of the LGBT community service field. I found myself relocating to Washington DC working for a great company but I wasn’t doing work that validated me or made me feel a sense of purpose. So I quickly searched the city for youth groups that I could attend and be apart of. My search kept coming up short and I eventually gave up. One day while visiting a friend he told me about this program in DC called DENIM. He asked me to come out to one of their events and meet the guys to see what it was all about and I did. After attending a few of their programs and getting more involved, they asked me to be apart of the team and work there part time. Still having my full-time job making good money and working part-time at DENIM was great. After some time went by I Comfort-Zonefound myself becoming more excited and genuinely interested in the work I was doing at DENIM than at my full-time job.


Some months went by and I truly was apart of the team at DENIM. I was coordinating events and developing new innovative ideas to reach out to other black gay male youth. One day the manager of the program says to me “keep up the good work because you might be taking over one day”. I thought nothing of it and continued doing my work. A few weeks later he tells me that he’s leaving the company and thinks I should take over as manager. I was shocked, confused and humbled; to even be considered was amazing to me. What happened next changed my life forever.

I actually had an opportunity for the first time in my life to fully give myself to something I loved to do. I had the chance to be in the forefront and really help support black gay men and boys like myself. As great as all this sounds I was still very scared and afraid. I had never worked for an organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of black gay men. I had become so comfortable and content with the work I was doing that I never truly realized how miserable I was until I started working with the DENIM program. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take the risk of leaving a job where I knew the work, culture and environment to be apart of this large organization where I knew nothing other than my few tasks given as a part-time employee. I asked God to guide and direct me, to allow me to move past my fears and enter into this new world. I asked the same friend that told me about DENIM for advice. We spoke onthe phone and he talked about things like: What makes you happy? Is it going to be worth the move financially and he last spoke about passion. He said to me, “if you have a passion for this work and they are going to pay you for doing something that you are passionate about, than the choice is simple”. The question was, do I take the risk into the unknown to follow my passion or stay where I was comfortable? Do I lean out on faith and land where I may or sit in my comfort zone because it was safe?


I chose to take the risk of following my passion! I write this to you now as the Manager of Young Adult Service for the only black organization that provides HIV/AIDS, health, mental health and social services in Washington DC. I can say that I love my job with everything in me. I sometimes forget it is work because I love it so much. This is the happiest I have been in years I make great money, meet amazing people – all while helping others in my community.

I owe all of this to the time in my life where the passion I had for something met my goals for success and ended up as a career…

Travis Wise

(Each series in our One Shining Moment campaign comes with a handout and video for those who use our series for presentations at drop-ins, workshops, retreats and more. Our series have been downloaded more than 200 times since their debut)

National Youth Pride Services,

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone. 773-YPS-8051