Lessons in Service: Saturday Sports

18 Nov

“This is so much fun!”

I cherish these words from the students at Ericson Elementary School during a recent Saturday Sports activity.  Saturday Sports is a program organized by Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP), with a mission “to connect churches and community partners to elementary schools and to equip them to serve through their active presence in every neighborhood.”

What it boils down to is being a better neighbor.

Our boys at Ericson Elementary engaging in an intense game of flag football.

Our boys at Ericson Elementary engaging in an intense game of flag football.

Last year, I heard about Saturday Sports through the Richter Center Student Leadership grapevine. Although I was not an Ambassador at the time, I was very much interested in completing personal service hours with kids. I was already a tutor for Wise Old Owl, the after school program for kids in the Lowell Neighborhood, organized by the Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership (FIFUL).  However, as I started a new job this year, I was no longer able to commit the time for after school tutoring.

I sure miss the kids from Wise Old Owl, but sometimes life forces you to pick up your things and move on. This can be especially difficult for the kids because some are familiar with inconsistency and people entering and exiting their lives.

On a Thursday night at my church’s college community, there were sign-ups going around for Saturday Sports at two nearby elementary schools. Ericson Elementary, was going to be led by my former internship staff member, Daniel, and his wife Brenda. I was excited about the opportunity, but also worried that I would be inconsistent in my attendance and use being a busy college student as an excuse. However, I wanted to try because even if I connected with one student, and could be a consistent presence in his or her life, that would be enough.

The first Saturday in September was a hot one; typical Fresno weather. I showed up before our site leaders and any other volunteers, and I was hopeful that it was going to be a good day. I met Chris, Josh and Jonah among the adult volunteers from the Valley Dream Center, for a total of ten volunteers. We did not expect the overflow of children at 9 a.m., but that is what we got. Nearly 30 children showed up for a first Saturday Sports. We played soccer, flag football, colored, sculpted with Playdough, and more. Kids were elated and never short of energy. Parents even joined in on the games. They just wanted more time to spend with us.

Kevin waiting to topple a train of Jenga pieces.

Kevin waiting to topple a train of Jenga pieces.

I even received a colored picture of a turtle from one of the young girls in attendance. I pinned it to a wall in my room, next to a mish-mash of other special handwritten notes and photos.

The beautiful turtle colored and autographed by Davine.

The beautiful turtle colored and autographed by Davine.

After the conclusion of a recent Saturday morning, volunteers were invited to an ENP training. We met the staff of ENP, heard their history, and their vision for the city of Fresno. At the training, we discussed engaging parents in our program as part of their Five Step Process. This was of particular interest for me because I want to build a relationship with the families attending our program.

One takeaway from that discussion was it’s not about us (the volunteers) imposing our ways and our thoughts of what makes a “good neighborhood.” It’s about our neighbors (both parents and kids). Parents especially have many valuable assets because they know more about the neighborhood than we do. It’s encouraged to let parents lead activities and share their skills with us and the students, even if that is simply teaching a student how to play checkers.

It has been seven weeks since the first Saturday Sports. I recognize faces and remember names. They are no longer just the boys from Daniel and Brenda’s apartments, the artistic girl in middle school, or the twins who like to play badminton. They are Kevin, Jesus, Jorgie, Skye, Jay’den, and Dav’ion. I know their teachers’ names, what type of music they like, how many siblings they have, and the like. No Saturday has been the same, but each Saturday has taught me something new about service.

What are you doing to serve your neighborhood? What volunteer experiences have made an impact on your life?

~Ambassador/Reflection Facilitator Erika D. Castanon

To Plant a Tree

16 Nov

On Saturday, October 24th, I volunteered at Make a Difference Day, which was planned and hosted by the SERVE committee, another Richter’s Center Student Leader group in charge of organizing the many different one-day service events through Fresno State. I woke up early, walked down to the school, and checked-in to the location with all the other volunteers that were set to serve that day – all before 8AM. The task of the day was planting trees around various locations on campus. We got an extremely thorough introduction to how to plant a tree from the grounds maintenance team of Fresno State, who demonstrated step-by-step the process needed to bring a tree to life.

Ambassador Jove (seated right) having fun with his fellow volunteers on Make a Difference Day.

First, the hole must be dug using shovels. It must be wide enough for the base of the tree to expand and deep enough to cover the soil base of the tree. The base must be broken up prior to insertion in order for the roots to spread. Once the hole had been dug, the tree could be set inside the dug-up hole. The soil was then able to be returned to the area which covered the base of the tree. At the halfway mark, the volunteers were instructed to place a few fertilizer tabs around the soil to assist in the growing process. Once the hole was filled, a soil barrier was placed along the outside edge of the circle to protect and house the water as it is initially watered. Finally, stakes were hammered into the soil using a stake hammer, and were tied to the tree using fasteners to hold the tree together and prevent the tree from unnecessary movements.

After some reflection on this service experience, I thought of the different ways this project had affected me and had helped me grow as an individual. It was fortunate for our volunteer group to have the opportunity to have a specialized team of landscape specialists guide our service group step-by-step and show the process of planting a tree; they were available to answer any questions and were helpful throughout the day. At the end of the service event, I was excited that I learned a new skill. I am confident that if I am ever thrust into a situation where I am required to plant a tree, I can go through the steps taught to me during Make a Difference Day to successfully complete the task.

Service was able to teach me how to complete a task I never thought I would have to do. Community service is powerful in many different ways to not only the community but to the volunteers themselves, and it has the potential to be a powerful instructor as well. Life is all about trying new things and learning as many different things as possible, and community service serves as a viable avenue for acquiring new assets. If you have not served before, service can be an enriching experience for not only personal growth and development, but for enhancing your skill sets too.

If you have served, what new skills have you learned while volunteering?

-Ambassador Jove

Psst…Serving Fresno Day, which is similar to Make a Difference Day, is right around the corner on November 21st.  Consider registering to volunteer and learn some skills just like Jove did.



My Veteran, Rudy

11 Nov
Last year Veterans DAy with Ludie, Rudy and Ambassador Lill. Photo Credit Ludie Olenchalk

Last year Veterans Day with Ludie, Rudy and Ambassador Lill. (Photo Credit Ludie Olenchalk)

Last Veteran’s Day I got the chance to attend the Fresno Veteran’s Day Parade with my fellow Ambassadors. The day before we had spent time at Fresno State having Fresno State students, faculty, staff, and visitors sign a We <3 Our Veterans poster. Most of us had never been to the parade, but we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to show our support to veterans. We all met up at Fresno State with our sign and drove downtown, setting up shop right on a corner where veterans in the parade would most easily see us. We had many heartfelt thank yous said to us as veterans walked by our sign, some family members of the veterans would even point out the sign making sure that their veteran saw it. After the parade we didn’t want to just crumble up the sign and throw it away – we wanted to give it to someone and I knew just the person to give it to, Rudolph Giannoni.

When I think about what lifelong service looks like, my first thought is always my friend, Rudy.

Rudy was born on April 18th, 1923 and twenty years later in 1943, though he was not eligible for the draft, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force. Rudy was a Staff Sergeant left waist gunner on a B-17 Bomber. On June 17th, 1944 on his seventh mission over Misburg, Germany, his plane was shot down.

An picture of the type of plane Rudy flew in. Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An picture of the type of plane Rudy flew in. Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Rudy spent the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft IV in Poland. During the coldest winter on record at the time Rudy was sent on the “Black Death March” walking from Poland to his Liberation in May of 1945. Upon coming home Rudy got married and he also began working for Kraft Foods, retiring after 37 years of service to the company.

Rudy didn’t begin talking about his life as a POW until one of his granddaughters asked him questions about World War II for a school assignment. Once he began talking and educating others, he couldn’t be stopped. Rudy has made over 70 visits across the Central Valley to many elementary schools, high schools, clubs, and various organizations – the theme of his visits was always, “Experiences as a POW in World War II”. 

Rudy spent a lot of his time serving at the Central Valley VA Hospital. Rudy was a member of the Fresno Chapter #1 of Ex-POWs, Purple Heart Chapter, American Legion Post 509 and 4, and was also on the Fresno Veteran’s Day Parade Organizing Committee. Rudy has also played an instrumental part in organizing the fundraising efforts to erect an Ex-Pow Monument at the VA Hospital in 2009.   

Rudy with his daughter Debbi and son Gary at the Ex POW Monument. Photo Credit Gary Giannoni

Rudy with his daughter Debbi and son Gary at the Ex POW Monument. Photo Credit Gary Giannoni

In 2013, he was part of the first Valley Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and the World War II Memorial. On Rudy’s 90th Birthday he took a flight in a B-17 over Fresno, was recognized with the “Key to the City of Fresno,” and all of this was televised on NBC Nightly News.  Rudy was given the French Legion of Honor Medal. In June of 2015 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from VA Central California Health Care System.

Rudy has been a part of my life since before I was even thought of. When my mom was fresh out of college she took a job at Kraft Foods, her position was the one that Rudy was retiring from. My mom spent a couple of weeks learning the ways of Rudy. Rudy was a lovely Italian man that always stood up straight and always greeted you with a hug and a kiss. Rudy and I were pen pals from the end of my 8th grade year to the end of high school. Rudy was one of the few people who looks into a person’s eyes and sincerely listens.  This man had a brain filled with  knowledge and a heart full of love. And he was always willing to share. I could never be sad around Rudy because he had this incredible personality that was so contagious.

Visiting Rudy this past May because he wasn't able to see me at my college graduation. (Photo Credit Ludie)

Visiting Rudy this past May because he wasn’t able to see me at my college graduation. (Photo Credit Ludie)

Rudy helped show me the importance of love of Country and of Veteran’s Day. On this day, not only do I think of Rudy, but also the past, present, and future men and women who sacrifice their lives for the protection of others. Although Rudy is no longer with us and I can’t visit him on Veteran’s Day, his spirit has left an incredible impact not only on my life, but on all the lives of those who ever had the pleasure of meeting such an outstanding person. I will never forget my Rudy and I will always remember to thank my Veterans. I hope each one of us can take the time, today and everyday, to thank the ones that protect us. 

How are you going to thank a Veteran? Do you have a Rudy in your life?

-Ambassador Ludie

Serving Fresno Day

9 Nov
Me and Ambassador Alumna Heather Goossen (left) having fun planting trees on Make a Difference Day.

Me and Ambassador Alumna Heather Goossen (left) having fun planting trees on Make a Difference Day.

Are you looking for a way to serve in the Fresno community? Lucky for you, Serving Fresno Day is November 21, 2015 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 pm. Serving Fresno Day is a local day of service encouraging people in the community to serve. Fresno State students, faculty, staff, and alumni have the opportunity to serve their community with one of three community benefit organizations. This year, Fresno State is partnering with Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Fresno State Plant Operations, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Central Valley.

  1. To refurbish the Fresno State campus.
  2. To help build hiking trails with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy.
  3. To paint and work on beautification projects at the Ronald McDonald House.

Volunteers are able to participate individually or as a group, they just need to fill out the Serving Fresno Day registration form. After you have registered, you will receive additional information about the event via email.

Last year, I had a wonderful time volunteering at a similar event called Make a Difference Day where I planted trees at Woodward Park. I still remember this experience because when I go to the park I am able to appreciate the nature around me. It is interesting because most of the time people want to help others and do not think about volunteering to improve the community through nature beautification. However, this event made me realize that no matter what the service is, you can make a difference. There are hundreds of people that walk through the park every week and they are able to appreciate nature because of the help of volunteers.

How do you serve Fresno?

-Ambassador Nicole

Community Service, Sports, Image

6 Nov

Community service and charity has the opportunity to create a positive, altruistic image for an individual or a business. Donating your own time to help others in need shows public-spirited character, demonstrates a willingness to change the community for the better, and allows an individual or business to give back to benefit the community. Sports organizations, in particular, strive to create this reputation and offer many different programs and groups catered to service. The NFL and NBA, two of the most popular sports in the United States, offer crowds of service opportunities and have numerous athletes who take the time to make the community a better place.

The NFL understands that contact football can be a dangerous sport and have been working with many different organizations to help raise awareness for player safety. One such organization is the NFL Player Care Foundation (PCF), an independent organization dedicated to helping retired players improve their quality of life. PCF addresses all aspects of life by providing programs and assistance with medical, emotional, financial, and social and community issues. Along with safety, the NFL also works with youth NFL groups including Pass, Punt, and Kick, NFL Flag Leagues, and USA Youth Football to teach the proper fundamentals of the game and encourages all young players to have fun playing in a competitive sports setting. The NFL has also set up NFL Play 60, which motivates children and teens to be active and play outside for at least 60 minutes per day. The NFL holds themselves to a high social responsibility for many issues as well: the NFL has teamed up to promote breast cancer awareness, dangers of driving under the influence, salute to service, and eco-friendly environmental acknowledgement.


One such player that embodies the service image of the NFL is Dallas Cowboy’s Tight End Jason Witten. Witten was the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2012, which awards an NFL player for their outstanding levels of involvement with the community. Not only has he stayed true to the Cowboys as a premier tight end for more than a decade, attended more than seven Pro Bowls, and has held the team record for most receptions, but he has launched a charity foundation, battles domestic violence through funded programs, has created a learning center program for struggling youth, has been a spokesperson for youth fitness, and has also hosted football camps for the past decade for young athletes. Among all these community honors and awards, the man stays humble, doesn’t complain, is respectful in all interviews, and is all around a genuine and selfless individual. He puts others before himself; he plays the game of football with lots of heart, and is a respectful and likeable person.

In the NBA, the league has set up global outreach initiative that aims to address social issues. This season, in fact, as part of the 10th anniversary of its creation, NBA Cares is renewing its commitment to communities around the world by inspiring play and teaching basketball’s values to more than 15 million youth, providing an additional 3 million hours of service to others, and leaving a lasting legacy in communities by building 1,000 more safe places to live, learn or play by 2025. NBA Cares works with youth-serving programs that support education, family development, and health, including: Special Olympics, YMCA of the USA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLSEN. Since 2005 when NBA Cares was launched, the league and teams have raised more than $260 million for charity, provided more than 3.3 million hours of hands-on service, and built more than 970 places where kids and families can live, learn or play in communities around the world.

Russell Westbrook, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is one such service role model in the NBA who has set up the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation to inspire kids around the world and help teach them to never give up. This organization is dedicated to supporting community based education and family service programs while encouraging youth to believe in themselves. During the 2014-15 season, Westbrook along with his organization opened new reading centers called “Russell’s Reading Room” in three Oklahoma City public schools, providing 1,200 new books. Westbrook also presented a local Oklahoma City single mother of two children with the new Kia car he won as the 2015 All-Star Game MVP.

These organizations are set up to inspire individuals to create new experiences and develop new skills through volunteerism. Community service and charity has the power to give life satisfaction, create special relationships with the individuals within the community, and allows an individual to directly impact the status of a community. The NFL and NBA strive to create this noble and generous environment through the many community partners they sponsor. These sports organizations use the media attention to try and make the world a better place by inspiring viewers to get involved and to do their part in helping their local communities.

I encourage all who serve to reflect on why service is important to strengthening an individual’s foundation, but also to see how it can help shape a positive image for an individual or an organization. The Richter’s Center Ambassador’s mission is to create a positive perception of community service to encourage others to serve and to highlight the goodness that students and organizations achieve through helping others around the community.

How do you perceive community service?

-Ambassador Jove


Serve at Camp Kesem this summer!

2 Nov

It is never too early to think about the summer!

FullSizeRender (1)

Photo courtesy of Camp Kesem Fresno State

Don’t have any plans for the summer yet? Let me help you.  Camp Kesem at Fresno State is looking for volunteers, counselors, and committee members to help during the summer.  Camp Kesem is a national organization that is focused on providing kids whose parents have been affected by cancer with a free, week-long camp where they can connect with other kids who have had similar experiences. Camp Kesem Fresno State is currently recruiting leaders from our very own campus to help these kids and make a week full of memories.  Let’s brings these kids our Fresno State spirit this summer!

Watch a little Kesem: 

Attend an informational meeting to learn more about how you can be involved with Camp Kesem. Come early and receive some FREE PIZZA!

November 09, 2015 – FFS 216a @ 5:30 p.m

For More information visit Camp Kesem online and find us on Instagram (CampKesem_CSUF) and Twitter (@CampKesem).

~Ambassador Evelyn

Pssst!  Read this great post about Camp Kesem Fresno State by Ambassador Alex, who served at the camp this past summer.


28 Oct


There is always one service that changes you. Sometimes it’s expected, sometimes it’s not. Camp Kesem, also referred to as Magic, is a place where children with parents affected by cancer can feel comfortable and be themselves. It is also a place that many children in the Central Valley were able to call home this past summer. Camp Kesem is family.

A little over a year ago, myself and a group of my classmates at Fresno State began planning Camp Kesem. We divided up the responsibilities and I was given the task of Volunteer Coordinator, which made me responsible for finding and training our camp counselors. Some other positions included Operations, which focuses on the mechanics of the camp (such as where it will be held and what activities will take place) and Outreach, which connects our mission with other pupils. Our outreach workers are also imperative in making this camp happen as they help organize our nurses and psychologists; a very important part of our team. I wish that I could say that Camp Kesem is a week where these kids can escape cancer, and the fears that come with having a parent affected by cancer, but often times there is no escaping that reality. Kesem is, however, a way for the children to connect with those who understand them, and accept them for who they are and what they have been through. Personally, I think that is the most beautiful concept of all.


(Photo credit Fresno State Camp Kesem)

Each one of our Camp Coordinators and Counselors poured an enormous amount of passion and time into this year’s planning, and it showed. While we all worked incredibly hard, regardless of the amount of work put in, no one knew what to expect as the opening date for Camp Kesem approached. We each had an idea of what was to come, but we did not know what our kids were going to be like. Who knew whether they would get along, or if they were going to have fun? Once we finally arrived, though, we experienced and learned much more than we had ever anticipated. The names and background stories that we had previously known only in print now had faces, and camp names, and laughs.

Camp Kesem was real; the kids were real, and the magic became very real. Such a camp exists because what most people don’t realize is that while their parents are fighting cancer; these children are fighting their own battles. These battles include fear, confusion and anger; on top of whatever they already may be dealing with in their schools and at home. What is so amazing about Camp Kesem is that it brings together all of these kids who, for once, feel understood and normal. They understand very well why their peer is confused, sad, and sometimes angry:

“What is cancer? Why does my mom have to have cancer? If I had McDonalds before, am I going to get cancer?”

These are all questions that my co-counselors and I had difficulty trying to answer. One thing we were taught, though, is to not be hesitant in letting them know that we didn’t have all the answers; no one does. We wish we did.

(Photo credit Fresno State Camp Kesem)

(Photo credit Fresno State Camp Kesem)

Something that set Camp Kesem apart from other camps was the feeling of empowerment – empowerment being a place of non-judgment where people could share their stories. During the middle of the week, we held an Empowerment Ceremony. Here, campers and counselors alike formed into a big circle, facing out with their eyes closed. The rest of the campers, were inside the circle. As various statements were read, such as who makes you laugh, who do you trust, campers would tap the back of the person that the statement applied to. At this ceremony, campers were able to share why cancer hurts individual and families and how Kesem and the family with Kesem was helping them cope. As a way to feel even more connected after the activity, we all turned around and looked at one another, we also used yarn, spreading it around the circle giving each person a spot to hold the yarn. We were connected together, we were family.

One night after a long day of working, leading, and taking care of our campers, I was with a group of counselors as we laid underneath the stars of Camp Wawona in Yosemite, and shared the stories of the children we had in our yurts. Along with the stories came laughter, and acknowledgement that this place truly was something special. This place, Kesem, is a place where everyone feels safe. The campers feel understood and, for the first time in a long time, they get to feel like kids.

Alex 5

(Photo credit Fresno State Camp Kesem)

I learned that listening and attempting to understand can be the best thing to do. I knew these kids for a week, and my campers ranged from ages five to nine. I have been on this earth for 21 years, yet I learned more about myself and the world through these kids than I ever could have imagined. I understand that there is hurt in the world and I understand that cancer sucks and affects people both indirectly and directly. Cancer changes people. That said, I also learned that service changes people. Throughout my time of service with Camp Kesem, I saw first-hand what it means to be strong, what it truly means to be scared, and most importantly, what it means to be a kid. Kesem helped me remember why I love to serve.  I serve at Kesem because I think that every kid needs, and deserves, to be a kid. I was able to help children get through a parent’s cancer. I was able to remind my campers what it felt like to be a kid- and that is magic. The kids at Camp Kesem are the strongest people I know. They are the reason I Kesem, and they are the reason that I continue to serve.

alex photo 33

(Photo credit Fresno State Camp Kesem)


Why do you continue to serve? What does magic mean to you? What have you learned through service?

-Ambassador Alex



Serving at Reading and Beyond

7 Oct
“Miss Lilli! Miss Lilli!”

I entered the small classroom at the Mosqueda Center to this cheer twice a week. Momentarily I was back in Fiji, hearing the excited voices of those children and the love and cultural exchange we’d shared. Instead I found myself at Reading and Beyond, an after-school literacy-and-more program for elementary students of Fresno.  I volunteered with this community benefit organization for my Child and Family Studies service-learning class. My job as a volunteer was to support a hired tutor as she taught a small group of students.  Little did I know a simple requirement for a service-learning course would turn into a semester plus a summer of fun!

Reading and Beyond

I’d arrive clad in my painfully bright yellow t-shirt, which boldly stated, “Reading and Beyond,” and on the back, “Empowering children and families to achieve productive, self-reliant lives.”

“Do the fish!” they’d say, remembering my first day’s focus on a book about undersea life. I started making fish faces, and my group was super impressed, so we all perfected our fish look. (I make a pretty accurate fish face, and also a shockingly accurate duck sound, but that’s a story for another day). I had fun like a big kid; the little ones followed what I did. Together, learning to read was fun and exciting! I modeled respect to the tutor and enthusiasm for the tasks at hand, so they did too.
In my literacy group were children who had fallen far behind in their reading levels, and others who were excelling students. Some spoke hardly any English. Others were fluently bilingual. It was incredible to see the group members assisting each other and growing together, despite such diversity. All of them were equally squirrely and excited after a long day at school, and I loved each one. During summer, the students would be served free lunch, then complete a rotation of literacy, fitness, and enrichment (essentially arts and crafts). I was amazed at the gains they made, even in a short time.
I learned so much from my Reading and Beyond experience, and I do hope that the children I worked with learned as well. I gained a lot of knowledge about working with children in particular, and about myself:
  • Kids can’t handle too many instructions at once. Perfecting effective teaching and classroom management strategies are now on my to-do list and will prepare me for my future as a Speech-Language Pathologist.
  • Praise means the world to children. You can see them glowing after you give them a compliment or commend them on a job well done. Even something as simple as remembering their name can excite them!
  • Likewise, children have hearts of gold. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Teacher, you’re pretty!” or “You’re fun!” Grown-ups don’t uplift one another as much as they should.
  • Competition excites some, but it can shut other kids down. Children lose motivation and interest in activities in which they feel they can’t succeed. So, I made a point to rub in the teamwork aspect. I learned to be the collaboration-promoter and enthusiastic cheerleader, especially at sports time.
  • Helping children overcome unfavorable behavior is pretty rewarding. For one child who refused to participate, I hand-over-hand led him in doing the task at hand: a simple art project. I just wanted him to follow directions. Afterwards, I expected him to hate me for all eternity. But instead we became friends and he respected me. That was very eye-opening.

On my last day, students gathered ’round to take a fun picture. I’ll never forget those giggles and smiles! As I said goodbye, they each flocked give me a hug; it was so special.

As a volunteer, I felt valued. My fellow volunteers and I saw the children thriving with more one-on-one attention than a staff-only environment could provide. Also, kids will teach you a thing or two!
                                  In summary, thanks for reading,
you’re pretty,
now go volunteer with kids and really make a difference!
Have you served children before? Has a child ever taught you an important lesson? How will you serve the next generation?
~Ambassador Lilliana

Personal Development through Service

30 Sep

Inspiration found here.

Here I am in my fifth year of college, and I still remember my Dog Days. I remember the nerves and the feelings of going from high school to college. Stepping into a lecture hall for the first time and not recognizing any faces, making presentations and speeches when you do not like public speaking, all these things are now memories. Comparing myself back then to now, I can tell you there is a big difference. To me, personal development is the key and I found that through service.

Getting involved in college and becoming a Richter Center Ambassador was the best decision I ever made. I did not only receive a sense of belonging, but I received the opportunity to work doing something I love, work on my development, and improve and strengthen skills that will be beneficial in a life after college. To some extent, I consider myself a shy girl that loves to volunteer and learn. This may seem like a contradiction, but it is possible. Once you get out of your comfort zone, you open the doors to amazing experiences and the ability to grow.

Facilitating Picture the Change with Ambassador Juan. From Richter Center Instagram.

Facilitating Picture the Change with Ambassador Juan. From Richter Center Instagram.

As Ambassadors, we do different tabling events and presentations, so we are constantly talking to others. Could you imagine someone that is shy and did not like public speaking doing this? It might be difficult to imagine, and maybe possible to say it is a different person. However, it is not, because that person is me. Tabling events give me the opportunity to share with all of you about service, about our organization, but most importantly, it allows me to listen to your stories of service, to your different majors and to your interests. Without realizing it—until I think about it—this strengthens my interpersonal skills and listening skills. This makes it easier to interact with complete strangers in my classes. Now, I am that girl that will sit next to you and start a conversation. Through presentations, I improved my public speaking skills and confidence. So now I can tell you I rock my presentations in the classroom. This does not mean that I love public speaking, but I learned how to become better at it. Even though I still become nervous and may get butterflies in my stomach, I stand before a room of people.

Spreading the word about the Richter Center with Renee and Neal. From Richter Center Instagram

Spreading the word about the Richter Center with Renee and Neal. From Richter Center Instagram.

Let me ask you a question, what kind of service have you done? How have you grown or developed as a person? This is something we do not think about when we do service. We give, but we do not realize that service transforms us. You have to reflect on what you do to see what the meaning behind it was, and how it affected you. Give yourself the opportunity to be transformed by service, and you might realize that you love it as much as I do. 

Presented with fellow Ambassadors at the Continuums of Service Conference 2014 in Hawaii. From Richter Center Instagram

Presented with fellow Ambassadors at the Continuums of Service Conference 2014 in Hawaii. From Richter Center Instagram.

~Ambassador Jazmin

A SIGnificant Experience: The Aftermath

28 Sep
Photograph courtesy of Ryan Kolter

Photograph courtesy of Ryan Kolter.

Here is what I did:

For a week I had the opportunity to provide service to a family in need. My group was given the task of making an additional two rooms to a home that housed about six people. The activities we participated in included filling up buckets of gravel and sand to mix them with cement and later prepare the concrete that would be used to hold the structure together. We built the walls to the rooms and participated in mounting the roof. We transported material from one work site to another by using a wheelbarrow. We bent and cut wires. We made preparations to lay down the floor of the rooms by shoveling dirt to level the ground. These activities were all coordinated in partnership with the Fuller Center for Housing through Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.

Here is how it changed me:

The rooms we built were basic, however the fundamentals of problem solving and applications to a real life structure were present for me. I realized that engineering is not only a career that caries wealth and a considerable amount of prestige. Engineering has the potential to impact the lives of many people. For this family, the addition of two rooms not only means a larger home, it means that their home will no longer be flooded when it rains. The previous night before we arrived, there had been a thunderstorm that had flooded their home. With the work we were able to do this will no longer be an issue. The career path I have chosen has the potential not only to provide me with a decent wage, but it allows me to apply the knowledge I learn in the classroom to communities that require assistance.

Here is how I grew as a person:

Now, on a personal level I was able to notice the growth of the group as we interacted with the local inhabitants of the impoverished community. Most of the population was dependent on fishing as their main source of income or had to work in the service industry. Education was limited. One of our guides mentioned unemployment being somewhere between fifteen and twenty percent. During one of our reflection activities, we took a chance to explore the backgrounds of our group by exposing the amount of privilege we thought we had. Some of us had the privilege of a better education, growing up in a better neighborhood or the privilege of having a supportive family. This activity allowed us to appreciate the diversity within ourselves and helped understand how sometimes we take the things we have at home for granted. For these people, a fraction of the things we possess does not compare to the things they currently have or will ever have the opportunity to experience. Jolvin, one of the boys who lives in the house we worked on, was amazed at the ability of a phone to take a picture. He was entertained for hours taking pictures while we worked. We were able to talk to him for short period of times and found out his soccer ball was flat and could not afford to get another one. The group decided to buy him a new ball. He was ecstatic to have received that gift. When he invited his friends to play with his new gift, the first thing they asked him was who had given him the ball. They immediately assumed correctly that his family could not afford to purchase a new soccer ball and that someone must have purchased it for him.

One last note:

The group had a final reflection on our final night in Nicaragua. As we reminisced on the memories we created, we were able to collectively discuss some of the accomplishments of the trip. Through our work with the families and members of the community we were able to notice the level of appreciation that they had toward the time, effort and donations we made. The level of happiness and gratitude that they expressed was something few of us have witnessed in the United States. Most importantly, we had the ability to change the lives of the families. In one week we were able to make a long term impact that will improve the living conditions of the family that will occupy the home. The general consensus was that we wished we had the opportunity to stay longer. Not only did they appreciate our presence, but they were considerate of the extreme weather conditions we were not accustomed to. One thing we all take home is the friendships we made on the trip. In a single week we had the opportunity to bond in ways not many people have the opportunity to do so.  Fraternities and Greek life in general do not always get the best representation by the media. The negative stereotypes that have been associated with Greek life have consumed the positive things fraternities have the ability to do. This experience is one that should not be disregarded.

How can you serve internationally? (The Richter Center is a great resource!) If you cannot serve in another country, how can you make a difference at a local level?

~Juan Alejandre, Ambassador


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