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The Richter Center Ambassadors

The student group for the Jan & Bud Richter Center at Fresno State

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continuums of service

Continuums of Service (COS) Experience

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

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Stories from the Island – A Valuable Lesson Taught by Rev. Puanani Burgess

I had the good fortune of being able to present at the 17th Annual Continuums of Service Conference that was held April 2nd through April 5th, 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii alongside my fellow Richter Center Ambassadors. The Ambassador team, in my humble opinion, did a wonderful job presenting an interactive session on how to best tell your ‘Story of Service’ to a diverse audience to most effectively garner their support and increase their knowledge of your cause. While the goal of the Ambassadors was to help all conference attendees learn how to tell their own story of service, there was one person in attendance who was an absolute expert on the intricacies of story-telling and from whom the Ambassadors learned so much wonderful information.

Puanani
Puanani Burgess, a wise woman who understands how to tell an effective story in order to show truth.

Rev. Puanani Burgess, a “mediator, community developer, facilitator of community-building and conflict transformation…, mother of three, and ordained Zen Buddhist priest” (as described on the API Women, Faith & Action website) gave a truly moving keynote speech to begin the conference. Her skill in story-telling was beyond compare and her thoughts on conflict resolution and mediation were brilliant. While she told many stories to explain her personal philosophy as it pertains to community, one stands especially clearly in my mind. I found a copy of the condensed version here.

One of the processes I use to help people talk to each other I call Building the Beloved Community. There’s an exercise that requires people to tell three stories.

The first is the story of all of your names. The second is the story of your community. The third story I ask them to tell is the story of your gift.

One time, I did this process with a group in our local high school. We went around the circle and we got to this young man, and he told the story of his names well and the story of his community well, but when it came time to tell the story of his gift, he asked, “What, Miss? What kind gift you think I get, eh? I stay in this special ed class and I get a hard time read and I cannot do that math. And why you make me shame for, ask me that kind question? What kind gift you have? If I had gift, you think I be here?”

He just shut down and shut up, and I felt really shamed. In all the time I have ever done that, I have never, never shamed anybody before.

Two weeks later, I am in our local grocery store, and I see him down one of those aisles and I see his back and I’m going down there with my cart and I think “Nope I’m not going there.” So I start to back up as fast as I can and I’m trying to run away from him. And then he turns around and he sees me, and he throws his arms open, and he says, “Aunty! I have been thinking about you, you know. Two weeks I have been thinking: ‘What my gift? What my gift?’ ”

I say “OK bruddah, so what’s your gift?”

He says, “You know, I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. I cannot do that math stuff and I cannot read so good, but Aunty, when I stay in the ocean, I can call the fish, and the fish he come, every time. Every time I can put food on my family table. Every time. And sometimes when I stay in the ocean and the Shark he come, and he look at me and I look at him and I tell him, ‘Uncle I not going take plenty fish. I just going to take one, two fish, just for my family. All the rest I leave for you.’ And so the Shark he say, ‘Oh, you cool, brother.’ And I tell the Shark, ‘Uncle, you cool.’ And the Shark, he go his way and I go my way.”

And I look at this boy and I know what a genius he is, and I mean, certifiable. But in our society, the way schools are run, he is rubbish. He is totally destroyed, not appreciated at all. So when I talked to his teacher and the principal of the school, I asked them what would his life have been like if this curriculum were gift-based? If we were able to see the gift in each of our children and taught around that gift? What would happen if our community was gift-based? If we could really understand what the gift of each of our communities were, and really began to support that?

So that for me is a very native approach—being able to see the giftedness in every aspect of life.

 

Hearing Puanani Burgess speak about what it means to find the gifts in others—and yourself—was one of the brightest moments of a truly wonderful weekend learning about best practices in community engagement and service-learning, one of my passions. Now that the conference is over and life at Fresno State picks up where it left off, I find myself wondering how I can continue to incorporate the teachings of Rev. Burgess into my daily life. How can I ‘see the giftedness in others’? How can you do the same? Do you have any tips or tricks that allow you to see a person’s (more than superficial, trite, or banal) worth? Share your thoughts below and, as you go about your day, make a conscious effort to appreciate the gifts of those whom you meet. I promise that the reward of doing so and appreciating the sundry talents of our community is many and truly gratifying!

-Ambassador Daniel

Presenting in Portland

It's official!  The Richter Center Ambassadors' presentation as listed in the conference handbook.
It’s official! The Richter Center Ambassadors’ presentation as listed in the conference handbook.

The Richter Center Ambassador team traveled to Portland, Oregon last week to present at the 16th Annual Continuums of Service Conference.  Six of us made the trip and delivered a student-led discussion of ways to increase the impact of student volunteers at institutions of higher education.  My fellow Ambassadors Alexi Kimura, Song Vang, Paulina Flores, Emily Hentschke, Amanda de Lima and I presented The Richter Center Ambassadors: A Framework for Recruiting and Retaining Student Leaders to a packed conference room.  Two of our peers from the Richter Center S.E.R.V.E. Committee – Oshea Carter and Bianca Mancilla supported us from the audience.

We all found the conference to be very beneficial as we were able to learn about all the other awesome things going on in the world of community service in higher education.

We are already making plans for presenting at the 17th Annual Continuums of Service Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in April of 2014.

Visit the Washington Campus Compact website to see conference highlights and a list of the presentations.

All hands in!  The team is ready to present.
All hands in! The team is ready to present.

If you are interested in what the Ambassadors work to achieve at Fresno State and wish to further your leadership skills and commitment to service, please consider applying for one of the Richter Center student leadership positions.  The S.E.R.V.E. committee plans and coordinates service events for Fresno State.  The Reflection Facilitators lead a meaningful reflection of the days’ work at the various one-day service events held throughout the academic year.  And the Ambassadors, of course, promote service work to the Fresno State community and serve as liaisons between students and the Richter Center.  Applications can be obtained at fresnostaterca.com/recruitment/ and must be turned in by Wednesday, May 1st.

-Ambassador Daniel

Portland OR Bust!

Richter Center Ambassadors present a poster at the Annual Continuums of Service  conference in Seattle, WA.  This year they will present a workshop at the conference in Portland, OR and two members of the SERVE Committee will be there to support them.
Here we are presenting a poster at last year’s Annual Continuums of Service conference in Seattle, WA. This year we will present a workshop at the conference in Portland, OR

The Richter Center Ambassadors are at it again! In a few short weeks a group of six Ambassadors will travel to the 16th annual Continuums of Service Conference in Portland. In February, we received the good news that we would have the opportunity to present at the conference, the theme of which is ‘The Engaged Campus: Higher Education for the Public Good’. The COS conference is the largest higher-education community service-learning conference in the United States and the we are very excited to present a 75-minute interactive talk entitled The Richter Center Ambassadors: A Framework for Recruiting and Retaining Student Leaders.

The Ambassador team is also very excited to learn about the new trends and best-practices in community engagement and service learning so that we can bring these ideas back to campus and become even more effective leaders and champions of service. Please wish us luck and, if you happen to be in the Portland area, consider stopping by the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront hotel, Salon B, at 3:45 on Thursday, April 25th to see us in action.

If you are a Fresno State student and you are particularly interested in the work we are doing as Ambassadors (including our travel opportunities) then be sure to stop by the Recruitment Mixer this Friday, April 19th at 3:00 PM in Library, room 3212.  Learn more about recruitment here.

-Ambassador Daniel

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