Three balloons float in Travis Civic Rybarski’s office. They’re a gift from a coworker celebrating his passion: rap music.
“When I come to work, being a rapper is still my first identity,” he said. “I’m also a youth partner when I’m rapping.”
As a Youth Peer Support Specialist in Kennewick for LCS Northwest, Rybarski helps young people navigate their mental health challenges. Those youth are often interested in rap or poetry.
“I want people to know it’s ok to tell their story,” Rybarski said. Through his day job, Rybarski sees how youth and their families struggle and triumph. Mental health may be his lens, but his message is that music allows people to take ownership of their stories.
Rybarski recently released a two-song EP, titled “Balloons,” under his stage name Ciivic. It tells two stories, one of vulnerability and the other of resentment. Rybarski even offers fans a mailer with two activities and two balloons to explore their stories and relationship to these two emotions.
“Working in mental health is the reason I’m a different artist,” he said. “I want to reach people and help them feel less alone.”
As a youth, Rybarski spent time couch surfing with friends. His family situation was difficult. Rap became his way of coping. Once he started rapping, life got better. His music started with impromptu rap battles in the park and progressed to shows for more than 100 fans.
“Rap built my confidence and I wanted it to be meaningful,” Rybarski said.
When he hosts mental health awareness events or when he is asked to speak at school assemblies, Rybarski gives a portion of his profits to a Tri-Cities youth shelter, My Friends’ Place. Rybarski never stayed there, but he always knew it was there if things got worse. This is a reality for many youth.
“If you have something to share, you do,” Rybarski said.