Serving at Reading and Beyond

7 Oct 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."
“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

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

A Summer of Service

6 May

The end of the semester is quickly approaching, so many are asking “What are you doing this summer?” Some are traveling, working, or taking summer school courses, which are great ways to keep busy. However, summer is a time of year where most of us have a little more free time. It is okay to be lazy for a bit, but why not do something more meaningful with your summer? Why not find a way to serve your community?


Volunteer! Photo obtained here.

There are so many places and ways to serve this summer, whether it is in an area where you hope to build a career or just a cause you are passionate about. Do something you enjoy, go regularly, and make it a habit. Last summer, I began volunteering for the Fresno Rescue Mission by serving dinner. Each time I volunteered, it felt great to have used my free time to do something positive for someone else.

So use your summer to benefit your community. A great way to find to volunteer in various areas is through HandsOn Central California. Using this website, you can browse organizations and find countless opportunities.

Finally, come visit the Richter Center in the Thomas building Room 107, email us Ambassadors at, or call us at 559.278.7079. We would be happy to help you find a way to make a difference this summer.

Will you use your summer to serve? Where will you make a difference?

-Ambassador Heather

3 Years Later: My Last Blog Post

4 May

2014-2015 Richter Center Ambassadors

It’s easy at times to go through life simply doing what you have to do. You develop a routine, and you live each day after another in function of your routine. So, in junior high, I did what I had to do to get good grades, then I did the same in high school in order to get into college, and then I got to college… What now? Do I work hard to get into graduate school? Maybe I’m working hard to get a nice job right after college? When does it stop? Something shifted once I got here.

I don’t know if it is because for the first time, I felt like I was the one in charge of making my own decisions, or if maybe I looked forward to starting fresh, a new story with new people. Either way, I embraced this new beginning.

As a freshman, I was surrounded with opportunities to become involved on campus, but it wasn’t until I heard Daniel Ward give a presentation about a program he was involved in that I truly became enticed. The Richter Center Ambassadors are champions of service on this campus. It attracts students of all majors and backgrounds with a single passion: service. When I heard about it, I could not think of a better way to spend my time at Fresno State.

My first year as an Ambassador, I learned so much. I was surrounded by students who had been in this role for two or three years and as I grew more comfortable, I shared ideas of my own. I remember I was so nervous making my first presentation at the Continuums of Service (COS) conference, and I relied heavily on my peers. In my second year, I grew very close to the group of Ambassadors, and we chose new activities to do on our campus. I became a Campus Compact Fellow, so I could continue expanding the role of the Ambassador program. Now, in my third year, I see a new group of students with new ideas and energy to reach our campus.

I guess, it is possible to quantify the work that I have been a part of these past few years, but, to be honest, there really isn’t a good measuring tool that can demonstrate the effect this program has had on me. If it wasn’t for it, I would not have become involved with Camp Kesem Fresno State, which has been a source of some of my biggest accomplishments. I would not have gotten to really know people who have made such a strong impact in my life – people who model service in their daily lives.

The Richter Center became a home in this large campus, and the Richter Center Student Leaders became my family — the kind where we can go bowling together and then have some fro-yo late at night while we talk about life. These are people who taught me how to not just do my daily routine but instead make it a habit to go out of my way for someone else.

I am so grateful for my involvement with the Richter Center and the Ambassador group. I could not imagine going through college without them. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity you’ve given me!

-Ambassador Amanda

Take a Leap of Faith

1 May

Image found here.

I cannot find a better quote to describe the struggles that some, if not all, of us go through. Fear of the new. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of presenting. Taking every chance and opportunity that is presented to us could be scary at first, but what we do not realize is how those opportunities change us.

Take a moment and think back to when you did something you were scared of, or did not really want to do. How did you feel after you accomplished it?

Most of the time, if not all, we feel proud and accomplished. We did something that perhaps at first we did not want to or something that we feared. It could have been anything, from giving a presentation to finding a new place to volunteer. The fears that make us get out of our comfort zones are sometimes the ones from which we grow most. We discover new strengths, we discover our weaknesses, and we discover a new perspective.

Someone once told me to take a leap of faith. At first I did not quite understand and I did not know how. Now, I am telling you to take a leap of faith. I stopped finding excuses why I could not do something, and I can tell you I have grown so much from taking that leap of faith. Besides the growth, I know I am able to give much more. My life was not only transformed, but now, I can pay that forward.

So, what about you? What experiences have you had? What did you learn from those experiences?

-Ambassador Jazmin

Continuums of Service (COS) Experience

20 Apr
The Richter Center Ambassadors just before presenting at COS 2015 in Long Beach.

The Richter Center Ambassadors just before presenting at COS 2015 in Long Beach.

As Richter Center Ambassadors, it is our job to involve students in community engagement and service-learning. We are the resources, facilitators, promoters, and role models for community service, and it is our duty and passion to spread the word about the importance of service in any way that we can. For the past several years, Ambassadors have had the opportunity to share their work on a regional stage at the Annual Continuums of Service conference. our national community of civic engagement in the form of a presentation that we create in the weeks leading up to the conference.

Continuums of Service (COS) is a conference in which people from universities all over the western United States get to share their experiences of service-learning, and we can mindfully engage in the spirit of service. At Fresno State, students play a strong role in community engagement, and being able to share our success with others was an incredible experience. In our presentation, we spoke about the past, present, and future of the Richter Center Ambassadors. In other words, we explained what the Ambassadors consisted of when we were first established in 2008, how we transformed into what we are now, and what former Ambassadors have moved onto.

Many people who attended our presentation shared positive feedback and wanted advice from us on how they could improve their service based programs. All of this positive feedback reaffirmed my commitment to the Ambassador program. In order to create our presentation, we had to reflect on the work we had done during the course of our term in the Ambassador program. It really made me think of how much I have grown during my time with the Richter Center, and why I love what I do so much. Many of the people who attended the conference recognized us for the remainder of it because we did such a good job of portraying how important our individual roles are in engaging other students, faculty, and staff in service-learning.

Ambassador Alex (center) with her fellow Richter Center Student Leaders (Juan and Cora) at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Ambassador Alex (center) with her fellow Richter Center Student Leaders (Juan and Cora) at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that the students that make up the Richter Center Ambassadors are passionate about what we do and that was clearly shown when we represented Fresno State at COS. Being able to articulate our service experiences to others is just as important as implementing them, I’m glad that I was able to do so with my fellow Ambassadors. Not only were we able to work as a team to present to others the importance of what we do, but we also got to learn from others at the conference as well and will continue to expand and improve our program. This was my first year attending COS, and I learned so much not only from the other presentations I attended, but also by working alongside my fellow ambassadors. I can’t wait until next year!

We are currently recruiting Ambassadors for the 2015-16 academic year (as well as Reflection Facilitators and SERVE Committee Members).  Applications are due this Friday at 12:00 PM.  Visit the recruitment section of this blog to download an application and learn more about each of the positions.

What do you love about service? How do you share your story?

-Ambassador Alex

Reflecting on Service: Through the Eyes of a Premedical Student

17 Apr

I wanted to reflect on my year of service and how the Ambassador program changed my perception of what service is. Before being a part of the Ambassador program, my service was limited to working in medical or clinical settings. For three years, I have been an active volunteer with the Saint Agnes Volunteer program. Working in a hospital setting allowed me to interact with people from different paths, incomes, and social/economic classes. However as time went on, I worried that I wasn’t making as much of an impact as I knew I could.


This led me to branch out and use service to explore and connect with different people. For the past month, I’ve been alternating working with Every Neighborhood Partnership’s Saturday Sports at Lincoln Elementary, Stellar Science at Fresno State, and passing out sandwiches to homeless people on the East side of Fresno. I was astounded by how eager people are to connect and share their pain, joy, and lives! Connecting with the homeless in east and downtown Fresno has given me so much insight on how other people make do with what they have. Simply taking an hour or two of my time has formed relationships with people I would never have in a hospital setting.


Since medicine is my future career, working in other service avenues gives me skills and experiences that will definitely be invaluable to me as I continue on my path. I will have greater knowledge of the needs of different parts of the community as well as an understanding of how to best serve my patients.

If you are interested in working with any of the volunteer services I’ve mentioned, please check these links!

Saint Agnes Volunteering:

Saturday Sports:

Passing out sandwiches: I wasn’t involved with an organization persay; I went to Walmart and bought PB&J sandwich supplies, encouraged my sisters to help me make and pack them and we drove around Fresno and passed them out! I highly encourage a buddy system if you would want to do this.

Stellar Science:

How do you serve? Can you see your impact?

~Ambassador Shola

A SIGnificant Experience

15 Apr
Volunteers build a home for a family in need. Photo Courtesy of:  Fullerton Center Global Builder (

Volunteers build a home for a family in need.
Photo Courtesy of: Fullerton Center Global Builder

As Ambassadors of the Richter Center one of our priorities is to ensure we are being role models for other students on campus. We are all passionate about service and as we work to share our experience with other students, some of us have the opportunity to embark on service opportunities. Not only do we want others to volunteer, but we must remind ourselves why we became Ambassadors in the first place. One of those reasons is our passion for serving others.

I am heavily involved with Greek Life at Fresno State. The Greek organization I have had the opportunity to be part of for three years, Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity—in partnership with the Fuller Center Global Builders program—provides an international service and cultural immersion program for its members called the SIG Experience. I will attend this educational experience as I travel to León, Nicaragua with some of my fraternity brothers. For a week we will provide hands-on assistance and build homes for families in need. The program is run in conjunction with the Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit organization that builds and renovates homes internationally as a helping hand in partnership with those in need, not as a hand-out.

Housing for those in poverty is a major issue in the world today – more than 1 billion people worldwide live in substandard housing and an additional 100 million are homeless. There is a need for decent homes all over the world, and even right in our own communities. That’s why I have decided to try to help out by partaking in this build.

The SIG Experience will last from May 30 to June 5. We will spend the majority of the week working along-side the families and other local community members to build safe, decent, and affordable homes. In addition to building, we will also have the opportunity to take part in some cultural and community activities.

My personal service experience abroad is not the only case in which an Ambassador will take initiative to serve and create an impact at an international level. Ambassadors in the past have taken trips to El Salvador, Fiji, and many other destinations. (In fact, recruitment is currently underway for the Fiji 2016 international service-learning trip for Fresno State students.  Visit for more info!)  They have used their service experience abroad and helped it reaffirm their commitment to service in our local communities. While it is important to be a factor of change in local communities, it is a beneficial opportunity to step outside our nation take a look at the bigger issues going on other less privileged areas and use that knowledge to solidify the work we do at a local level.

I have the opportunity to participate in an experience not many can make possible. The Ambassador program consists of student leaders who not only focus their efforts at a local level but also expand their service to the international community.

Have you considered serving abroad? Why serve internationally? What benefits do you think you can bring back and apply at a local level?

~Ambassador Juan Alejandre

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 309 other followers