Alternative Spring Break

23 Mar

Spring Break will approach soon for Fresno State students, and as you contemplate which beach you would like to visit, please keep in mind you have the ability to have an impact on the community. A week off in the middle of the semester can be the perfect getaway to reduce the stress accumulated throughout the semester. However, for a few days you can choose to focus your energy on a rewarding experience and personal growth.10523991_10153079687871151_1480004060896604643_n

This year will be the 7th consecutive year of the Alternative Spring Break program, and 30 students were selected to serve with two sites. These students will complete 20-25 community service hours, develop leadership skills through team building and communication, network with students and community organizations, and further personal and professional development. The two teams will work at the following sites:

Every Neighborhood Partnership (March 28 – March 31)

Team members will conduct a morning youth camp facilitating activities such as sports, games, and activities for children and families. In addition, they will participate in park beautifications and graffiti cleanup in neighborhoods.

GRID Alternatives Central Valley (March 30 – April 2)

Students on this team will gain hands–on experience and knowledge in renewable energy as this project will feature the installation of solar panels for two Fresno homes.

It’s inspiring to learn about these Fresno State students who will spend their spring break giving back.  Be sure to follow their work through Facebook.

What are you doing for spring break? Will it benefit the community? What other activities will you participate in to engage the community during the spring break?

~Ambassador Juan

Fresno State Blood Drive Competition

18 Mar

April Blood Drive Poster-01

Fresno State is known for its traditions, and one in particular has literally been saving lives: on-campus blood drives. For the last blood drive of the academic year, the school is doing something a little different: hosting a blood drive competition amongst the student clubs and organizations. The interested groups will sign up for a 2-hour shift at the time, day, & location of their choice. During this time frame as well as the 3-day period, the groups will recruit potential donors whether it be other classmates, professors, or even family members. The top 3 clubs/organizations with the most recruited donors win!

The interested groups are asked to email the head coordinator, Bianca Mancilla, at bmancilla@csufresno.edu by Wed, March 25th.

Nominate Now!

13 Mar
Nominate someone for Volunteer of the Year!

Nominate someone for Volunteer of the Year! Photo credit.

Do you know someone that loves to volunteer and should be recognized? Well, you are in luck! The Richter Center is now accepting nominations for the Volunteer of the Year award. This award is given to Fresno State students who have volunteered their time and efforts to better the community. Anyone can be nominated! Whether you are nominating someone else, yourself, or being nominated you can simply fill out this application. The applications are due to the Richter Center by Wednesday, March 25, 2015 before 5 p.m.

This is an awesome way to highlight the students of Fresno State that are committed to service. Moreover, it is a reminder to continue to serve. It is getting towards the end of the year where everyone is busy with midterms and sometimes we get so caught up in our work that we don’t take a break. Don’t get burnt out! Try to get out and volunteer instead. It doesn’t  matter how long, it still makes a difference. Don’t forget that if you are ever looking for a service activity, the Richter Center provides an endless amount of opportunities! Come by and check us out if you have any questions. We’re in the Thomas building room 107, or call us at 559-278-7079.

Who will you nominate and why? Have you ever volunteered recently?  Where is your favorite place to volunteer?

~Ambassador Nicole

Saving Lives, One Paper at a Time

11 Mar
Ambassadors were up  before the sun passing out papers and aprons to excited Bulldogs!

Ambassadors were up before the sun passing out papers and aprons to excited Bulldogs!

Each year, the city of Fresno puts on Kids Day as an effort to raise money for Valley Children’s Hospital. This year was a huge success; volunteers Valley-wide raised over $535,000, a new record! The Jan & Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement & Service-Learning organizes the portion of Kids Day where Fresno State students participate. Nearly 2,000 Fresno State students participated this year and raised over $44,000, which is slightly higher than last year and a substantial portion of the grand total! Numerous clubs and organizations participate in this event each year, and it has even become a competition for many of them—especially the fraternities. This year, out of all of the participating fraternities, Sigma Phi Epsilon raised the most money, over $5,000. The other top selling organization was Trabajadores de La Raza, who raised over $1,200.

Top sellers: Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and Trabajadores de La Raza!

Top sellers: Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and Trabajadores de La Raza!

Kids Day is one of the first community service events I participated in last year, when I was a freshman at Fresno State. Coming from the small town of Hollister, California, I remember thinking how amazing it was that so many people (students and local Fresnans) dedicated so much of their day to raise money for this amazing cause. Some people even start the night before, waiting hours at a corner so that they can hold their spot for the next day. Cora Cha, Fresno State Sophomore and member of the Richter Center SERVE committee, helped organize this event at Fresno State. Cha states,

“Kids Day is much more than raising money for Valley Children’s Hospital. It’s about the unity that brings the community together for the children in the hospital. It reveals the depth of what we can accomplish when we come together and take action.”

Cha’s words represent much of how I feel about Kids Day, and I’m sure many others feel the same. That is why this is such a successful annual event. This year, my role in Kids Day was behind the scenes as I distributed newspapers with my fellow Richter Center Student Leaders to other students. Being a part of this event on both sides of the spectrum was compelling because I got to see how important every role is in order to make an event successful. Seeing both students and the Fresno community come together to raise money for the Valley Children’s Hospital further ignited my passion for volunteerism and community service. I could not be more proud to be an advocate and student leader for community service; I can only hope that even more students were influenced by Kids Day!

Ambassadors celebrate a job well done!

Richter Center Student Leaders celebrate a job well done!

What is your favorite annual event? What organization would you want to promote city-wide?

~Ambassador Alex

A Fortunate Meeting

5 Mar Levine Inspiration
Philip Levine Photo credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Philip Levine. Photo credit: Jim Wilson/ New York Times

It’s curious sometimes just how quickly interesting people can come and go in one’s life, and even more compelling how service can provide a framework for these exchanges. This is how I felt upon meeting Mr. Philip Levine.

It was early and gray the morning of January 23, 2015. I was fresh off my Fiji trip with that new joy for service in my soul. I was determined to share some of it as I went from room to room taking meal orders in my classy volunteer garb. Every time I volunteer at St. Agnes I meet at least one person who likes to stop and share advice or stories between meal-planning, and this day, it was Philip Levine. He seemed to be just an average patient, but he intrigued me somehow.

After we’d planned his simple meal, we somehow got on the subject of travel, or perhaps culture first, I can’t remember. I told him a bit about serving in Fiji, and he nonchalantly mentioned all the places he’s been (which were so many I can hardly recall them now). I’m 100% Portuguese, and so he told me tales of the beauty of Portugal, and highly recommended that I travel there. He collaborated with a Portuguese man on a book of poetry once. “You’re a POET?!” I exclaimed, a little too excitedly, “where can I buy some of your works?” (His heart would begin to beat too hard at intervals, and he’d have to stop, breathe, and rest for a few minutes, the pulsing in his neck was visible and very rapid, but I was patient. I felt that I brought a bit too much energy.) He said no need, and he gave me one of his books on the spot! It was titled “News of the World.” He continued his story, but throughout, casually mentioned prizes, professorships, etc., as I marveled at his achievements and humility. He was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a professor emeritus at Fresno State, to name a few contributions. I was so inspired. I cracked open the book, and found a voice for the average soul, and in some particular ones, the Fresno soul. I asked him to sign it, and he did, although it was a visible struggle. I thanked him, and we chatted a bit more, but soon I could see he needed rest and I needed to curb my curiosity. I bid him good bye and get well.

Levine Inspiration

Sometimes, you walk out of a hospital room subconsciously accepting that you will probably never see a person again, whether by healing and return to the daily grind or by the final departure. Other times, it hits you.

It wasn’t until after he passed a few weeks ago that I learned just how influential Mr. Levine really was to Fresno State and the realm of poetry. How fortunate I was to chance to meet the man! He used his gift to turn our Fresno experience into art–a service indeed. He enjoyed jazz music, and collaborated with Dr. Benjamin Boone, a professor with a wonderful commitment to service-learning, in setting some of his works to music. The project is just about done, you can listen to some tracks here.  Dr. Boone described him as “spontaneous,” and said Levine “had a confidence in his work–in art–in our project that was refreshing.” I would have loved to have Levine as a professor here at Fresno State.

Service has brought me to bizarre places, introduced me to incredible people, and filled my life with so much meaning. This is just one instance of amazing learning and a fun connection I was given through first my excitement surrounding service abroad, and my actual presence as a St. Agnes volunteer. I won’t soon forget my fortunately-timed meeting with Philip Levine and his quiet, confident love of poetry that is such a beautiful contribution to our community.

Have you ever made an unforgettable connection at a service opportunity? Who has inspired you?

~Ambassador Lilliana

Interview with Hannah Poore

23 Feb
SERVE Committee Member Hannah Poore

SERVE Committee Member Hannah Poore

This post is different from some of the ones I’ve have done in the past. Today, I’m sharing an interview with one of my peers in the Richter Center Student Leadership (RCSL) team. Hannah Poore has been a part of RCSL group for one year where she has been a member of the SERVE Committee.  Here is a little insight into her sweet journey with us. Thanks, Hannah, for contributing your story to our blog!

What’s your major and career goal? 

My major is Mass Communications and Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations, and I’m minoring in Sociology. My career goal is to do public relations for a socially-minded company whose cause I love and support and want to spread the word of!

Hannah Poore with fellow SERVE Committee members (Sharon Leyva and Cora Cha) help out at the Spring Community Service Opportunities Fair.

Hannah Poore with fellow SERVE Committee members (Sharon Leyva and Cora Cha) help out at the Spring Community Service Opportunities Fair.

What role do you play in RCSL?

For the SERVE Committee, I’m on the Public Relations and Marketing Committee. I create content for social media, help to make flyers advertising our one-day service events, and spread the word about our service events to media sources like the Bulldog Blog and the Collegian in order to make volunteers aware of the opportunity.

How did you hear about this group?

I heard about RCSL in [a class], from [RCSL members].  Specifically, Alexi Kimura encouraged me to attend a Richter Center Ice Cream Social at the end of my freshman year, and when I met the RCSL team there, I knew I wanted to join and work with them on their awesome service events.

What has been your favorite part about being part of this team?

My favorite part about being on this team has been getting to know the girls! I look forward to our weekly meetings, and I’ve made some really special friendships through RCSL. Yay!

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Hannah and her RSCL friends at the annual Richter Center Student Leader Retreat! Photo credit- Hannah

Why RCSL?

I joined this team because I’m passionate about service and making the world a better place, and all of you (SERVE, Richter Center in general) are too!  It’s amazing!  I love being around such positive and helpful people! It is so refreshing, and it’s wonderful to see our team’s work paying off at service events. I also love spreading the joy of service to others, like volunteers who attend our service events or people I talk to at tabling events, because it really is such a source of joy in my life, that I want others to know about it!

Have you considered being a part of the Richter Center Student Leadership group? If you want more information, please contact us fresnostaterca@gmail.com.

-Ambassador Amanda

Register for Kids Day!

23 Feb

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[Image Courtesy of Fresno State Kappa Kappa Gamma]

Each year, Fresno street corners are alive with people selling the “Kids Day” edition of the Fresno Bee for $1 in hopes of raising money for Valley Children’s Hospital. Last year, 1,400 Fresno State students raised more money than any other single entity (school, business, or even small cities) in the Valley with a total of over $43,000!

You too can serve the children and families of Valley Children’s by participating in this year’s Kid’s Day on Tuesday March 3, 2015. You can sell papers, spread the word, and/or buy a paper from students around campus. Hopefully, we will surpass last year and raise even more money! Be a part of this special event, serve your community, and have fun!

It’s not too late! Registration closes February 27th so don’t hesitate! Click to register!

-Ambassador Heather

My Service Story

20 Feb

 

In the past year, I have been volunteering at the Fresno Rescue Mission serving meals to the less fortunate. My experience at the Fresno Rescue Mission has been wholesome, and more recently, it has been an unforgettable one. Not long ago, a member of the organization going through the rehabilitation program asked me, “Why do you volunteer?” My explanation should have been simple, but I struggled to express the answer in the correct words because there were no words to explain the feelings and emotions I felt when I volunteered. I thought to myself, “I enjoy helping others because it is a rewarding experience, to be a part of something beyond simply serving food to one individual.” I am that one small push towards change for the better because “even the smallest person can change the course for the future” (J.R.R. Tolkien). It has been inspirational to see multiple people in the program grow as individuals from when they entered to when they finished. Being a part of that initial change has been a reward in itself.

A large percentage of families in Fresno live in poverty, and Fresno is known to hold one of the largest populations of homeless people. Although Fresno is ranked among the top cities to be the most impoverished in the nation, many people are unaware of the growing problems or disregard the existence of poverty and homelessness. Unfortunately, it is difficult to help families move above the poverty line; however, I believe that we can try and improve the current conditions that we are faced with. People who have never witnessed homelessness often have difficulties comprehending the reality and the struggles homeless people face. I cannot say that I have experienced a similar situation, but being exposed to it has helped me become more thankful and more willing to extend a helping hand to the community.

So, why do I volunteer? When I volunteer I feel selfless and it takes me away from my busy schedule. Although I always seem to be stressed-out with school, volunteering has been a stress-reliever. By volunteering at the Fresno Rescue Mission, I learned more about the Fresno community, gained communication skills, and met amazing people. It makes me so joyful knowing that a simple gesture such as serving a meal can make an impact, more than I realized. It is the small things in life that make all of the difference. I guess what I am trying to say is that I volunteer because I believe at some point everyone is in need of help, and if I am capable of being a part of the help, I will do what I can to be of assistance.

Consider serving-a-meal with me, it is a simple application and orientation. Think about what you can do to help others and what impact you can make in the community. What will you do today to make your community a better place? How has service impacted your life? How has service been rewarding for you? But, most of all: WHY DO YOU VOLUNTEER?

~Ambassador Nicole

Have You Found Your Music?

5 Feb

Sometimes during the crazy life of being a college student (or whatever is making your life crazy) you need to take time and read a children’s book. Trust me, your day could turn out to be better just because you got to escape into a quick, cute story with lots of pictures! I read a children’s book last year that I have since added to my favorite children’s book list. I like this book so much that whenever I give presents to people who are in their earlier years, I give them this book. Why do I love this book? There are two main reasons.  First, the artwork in the book just makes me happy.  When I look at it, I just go “WOW.”  The second reason is because the message of the story still sticks with me, motivating me to keep going, keep trying, and keep serving.

The book is called Giraffes Can’t Dance. The story follows a Giraffe named Gerald whose legs bend in a different way, causing him to have some troubles walking. Each year, all the animals in the jungle come together for a dance party. Gerald always feels so awkward because he tries and tries and he just can’t get the hang of dancing, and all the other jungle animals laugh at him. One night after being completely embarrassed at the dance party, Gerald goes into a clearing in the jungle and looks up to the moon. That’s when his new friend the cricket comes up to him and asks him what is wrong. Gerald says to the cricket with a very sad face that all the other animals say he just can’t dance. That’s when the cricket suggests that maybe Gerald hasn’t found the right music yet. The cricket then plays his violin and suddenly Gerald is the best dancer in the whole jungle. All of his jungle friends come and look in awe over what Gerald can do. Gerald found music that he loved, helping him to become a great dancer.

I think that Gerald’s story of finding his music correlates to me and my service story. When I first came to Fresno State I couldn’t find anywhere to serve that felt right. I kept feeling this way until I found Alternative Spring Break and Saturday Sports! Both these programs had me working with children, playing sports, making art projects, and creating a safe place for kids in the Fresno community to play. I found service work that I could actually do and do a good job at it! I truly felt that not only was I giving back, my service work was giving back to me. I found service work that made my heart smile.

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Alternative Spring Break 2013

Sometimes you try and try and you just don’t feel like you have found where you need to serve, you feel out of place, you might even begin to think that you can’t even give back at all.  But, my friend, that is so not the case – you just haven’t found your music yet! Just like how Gerald found his music, you will find a place to serve and you will thrive. Don’t worry if you haven’t found yours yet, KEEP TRYING!  You might be wondering where to start.  There is a fabulous resource on campus that can act as your cricket and give you service opportunities that you would have never thought of!  Stop by the Richter Center in the Thomas Building, Room 107. I also encourage you to sign up for the by-weekly service newsletter The Epicenter, this resource is filled with all kinds a different opportunities. Try different things out. These two resources can surely get you on your track of finding your service.

Have you found your music that YOU love? Have you ever volunteered or served somewhere that you didn’t expect that you would like, but did? Are you currently serving the community? Have you ever been into the Richter Center?

- Ambassador Ludie Olenchalk

Fiji is a Life

3 Feb

Eyes flutter open. You see a cloud of white mesh all around. You feel thoroughly sticky and quite katakata (hot), but these are sensations you’ve come to embrace. You close your eyes once more, reflecting on your last memories before falling asleep: Fijian lullabies from the nearby community hall with the ocean gently singing along. Your stomach tells you that you drank too much grog last night, but you don’t care. Rays of light beckon you through the cracks in the door and wooden window shades, as the sun whispers, “come look.” So, snatching your sulu (wraparound skirt) and journal, you hop over sleeping girls and exit the little house to sparkling waves, white sand, sea breeze, and a glorious sunrise. You know in just a little while the village will wake up and you’ll hear friendly voices saying Yadra sia, good morning. What will the day hold?

Chris and Maika are hard at work. Photo credit: Jes Therkelsen.

Chris and Maika are hard at work. Photo credit: Jes Therkelsen.

Perhaps horseback riding, crafting with joyful children, dancing, sawing wood, nailing cabinets,  going to the sea, jumping off a rope swing, painting the community center, snorkeling, finding spidery starfish, whistling to hermit crabs, weaving mats, cracking open a coconut by means of machete, singing with a famous band, reflecting with a teammate, showering in a waterfall, napping in a hammock on the beach, hauling rocks from a river to make an irrigation trough, frying up some ro-ro (my favorite Fijian food) or delicious fresh fish, starting a spontaneous limbo game, eating the most succulent pineapple of your life from Balei’s garden, singing and praying in church, drinking round after round of grog (water strained through ground yaqona root which provides a tongue-numbing sensation and a deep calm), and gazing at a sky full of stars before climbing under your net to sleep.

Kylie and Maddie enjoy pineapple from Balei's garden. Photo credit: Jes Therkelsen

Kylie and Maddie enjoy pineapple from Balei’s garden. Photo credit: Jes Therkelsen

“Fiji is a life.”

This brief song lyric, written by my friend Inoke from the band, embodies our experience on the Fiji Service-Learning Adventure 2015 all too well. Beyond the exciting activities that fellow Fresno State students, a few faculty, and I experienced in Naboutini, Fiji was an exhilarating embrace from the villagers and an immersion in their beautiful culture of patience, overwhelming love of neighbor, and kindheartedness. There was an absence of the anxieties of our materialistic, time-obsessed world, replaced by a genuine concern for the well-being of the community. I will never forget the new “life” and perspective these Fijians gave me during my time in the village.

Singing "Fiji" with the band, Drodrolagi kei nautosolo. Photo credit: Chris Fiorentino

Singing “Fiji” with the band, Drodrolagi kei nautosolo. Photo credit: Chris Fiorentino

The trip did require, admittedly, quite a bit of endurance and perseverance against the heat, humidity, unfriendly insects and adjustments to a new way of life (diet, etc.). But I quickly found unfaltering joy amidst any slight discomfort, and proceeded to create incredible bonds with teammates and villagers alike.

The dream team! Photo credit: Chris Fiorentino

The dream team! Photo credit: Chris Fiorentino

It was incredible to discover that the most beautiful things on earth to one person can be commonplace to another. My breath was stolen at the wonders we saw while snorkeling, but our friend Jim just nonchalantly handed me sea cucumbers and bright blue starfish and couldn’t begin to fathom my wonder at his backyard coral reef. Also, Mere, our Fijian mother, must have thought we were overly dramatic during our cool, refreshing waterfall showers. The once-in-a-lifetime experience for us was her washing machine. She looked so beautiful, perched on a rock, scrubbing and rinsing her many sulus.

The lesson I took from my experience that I am bringing to Fresno is this: kindness must be a culture rather than a series of acts. The vastly different culture of Fiji stole my heart and broadened my perspective. From here forward in all aspects of my life and especially when serving others, I plan to be more intentional with my words and deeds and willing to make new connections.

Snorkeling! Photo credit: Cassie Niino

Snorkeling! Photo credit: Cassie Niino

The villagers showered me with love and incredible generosity and changed my life, but the question remains: how did I impact them? I brought guitar strings, water colors, crayons, and construction paper with some donations I was given beforehand, and they were received with gratitude. Many beautiful memories came from using these supplies. However, I feel like our team’s presence and willingness to serve meant the most. I loved the villagers back to my best ability. I loved their home, culture, music, lighthearted personalities, and traditions, and I carry that love in my heart still.

My Fiji experience has developed my heart for international service and broadened my worldview in the best way. I look forward to giving more love and employing the lessons I learned in future service endeavors.

Little Timoce was always watching and learning with those beautiful dark eyes. He'd get so joyful when I'd acknowledge him! Photo credit: Jordan Nicholson

Little Timoce was always watching and learning with those beautiful dark eyes. He’d get so joyful whenever I acknowledged him! Photo credit: Jordan Nicholson

Interested in international service? Check out Madventurer–we had smooth sailing with this incredible, inspiring organization. Also, for students, keep an eye on the Division of Continuing and Global Education for upcoming opportunities, or contact the Richter Center to answer any questions regarding volunteering, community engagement, and service-learning.

Life is short; the world is a vast place. How will you step outside your comfort zone to share your time and talents? What need do you see here at home that you can fill? Would you consider international service?

~Ambassador Lilliana

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