Broadening My View

by NonaLisa Lederach

Youth Board Member from Wesley United Methodist Church in Fresno, CA


Greetings SSP family! My name is NonaLisa Lederach, and I am one of the new youth members for SSP’s Board of Directors. I am a senior at Buchanan High School, a densely populated public school in Clovis, CA. When I was a year old, I was adopted from Yichun City, China, and brought to the United States to be raised in California. My family consists of my parents, Beth Lederach and Lori Clanton, my sister, Eliza Lederach, and my two dogs, Berkeley and Auggie.

As an active community service volunteer, I enjoy giving back to the community, helping the impoverished, and supporting those who may not have a safe place at home. I participate in the “Circle of Friends” program at the local hospice center, Hinds Hospice Center for Grief and Healing, and I am involved in the Gay Straight Alliance Club at my high school. The “Circle of Friends” program encourages high school and college level students to become “special friends” to a child who has lost somebody close to them. As “big” special friends, we are trained to become a safe person with whom a child can trust with their emotions during this difficult time. Also, I participate in the GSA club, which serves as a safe spot for those who do not necessarily feel accepted at home. As an activist for LGBTQ+ rights, I believe everybody deserves equality, no matter who—or what—one is.

SSP has been nothing short of an incredible experience.

SSP has been nothing short of an incredible experience. I have attended SSP for the past two years, and I hope to go next summer as well. The first year—the summer after my sophomore year— I traveled to San Diego, CA, with my church. Although I was a little nervous to embark on this new adventure, the experience was absolutely life-changing. Not only did I meet some amazing people, but I also broadened my perspective of the world. In San Diego, my work team repainted a house in an urban area and worked with San Diego Canyonlands in a nearby neighborhood. As a privileged valley girl, this was the first time I had done any kind of intense physical labor, and boy was it exhausting.

NonaLisa, back, with former board member Emily Pall in San Diego, CA.

NonaLisa, back, with former youth board member Emily Pall in San Diego, CA.

I think that was what was so amazing about my first SSP experience: realizing that the world is much bigger than it seems and that one should be grateful for what she has. Working for a straight five days of the week was truly a humbling experience—something I had never experienced before. I became aware of how lucky I was to have a nice house to come home to, a great school to be educated from, and a beautiful neighborhood to live in. This past summer, I traveled to Smith River, CA. Similar to my week in San Diego, my experience at Smith River could not have been any better. I met some intelligent and inspiring people, served a fantastic community, and strengthened my faith. SSP is truly a life-changing experience.

I am so excited and grateful to be able to serve on the SSP board this year. After high school, I plan to attend a University of California school or private college for my undergrad degree and major in political science with a minor in international affairs. By working with the SSP Board, I am not only bettering my leadership skills, but I am also broadening my perspective on the world. Eventually, I would like to attend a prestigious law school and earn my law degree, possibly becoming a civil rights lawyer or working in the government. SSP’s mission, which is to provide opportunities for teenagers and young adults to grow their faith and serve others, is exactly how I want to impact the world. I am overwhelmingly thankful to be a part of something so amazing.


Editor’s Note: NonaLisa served in both San Diego and Smith River. Learn more about SSP’s summer programs and all of our summer locations.

Bringing a Diverse Opinion

Bringing a Diverse Opinion

by Maya McLeod

Youth Board Member from Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Tustin, CA


I am so excited to be introducing myself as a new SSP board member! My name is Maya McLeod and I am a junior at La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego, CA. Some of my passions include softball, family time and community service. I am the co-chair of the “Green Team” at my school and participate in various community service projects, including a trip to the Dominican Republic last year to teach English.

I’ve had the blessing of experiencing SSP in a multitude of ways, as a middle school student through my high school years, and attending as part of a youth group, as well as an individual. I believe I can bring a diverse opinion to the board that will encompass the many different types of SSP participants. My atypical family structure, being raised by two moms and having a biracial adopted brother, has also helped shape who I am today and I am hoping to support SSP in its open door policy, acceptance and inclusivity of everyone.

When I think of summer, my week at SSP is always a highlight and an integral part of my life.

When I think of summer, my week at SSP is always a highlight and an integral part of my life. Each year I feel I grow closer to God, make lifelong friendships and feel good about being of service to others through my SSP experiences. SSP has inspired me to pursue my love of assisting others. In the future I would like to join the Peace Corps and eventually seek a career in the medical field.

I am certain being a part of the SSP Board of Directors will be a tremendous opportunity for growth and I look forward to serving the SSP community!


Editor’s Note: We are excited to welcome Maya to the Board of Directors! Learn more about our summer service opportunities and our Individual Youth program.

Twelve SSP Experiences

Twelve SSP Experiences

by Liam Smith

Youth Board Member from Elk Grove United Methodist Church



Liam beautifying a park in Stockton alongside the local nonprofit Reinvent South Stockton.

My name is Liam Smith and I have just been chosen to serve on the Sierra Service Project’s Board of Directors. I have been on twelve SSP experiences in Chiloquin, Smith River, San Diego, Coarsegold, McDermitt, Susanville, South Los Angeles, and Stockton.

Each time I have been able to see growth in myself, others, and the communities SSP has served. My first SSP experience was a Middle School trip in Coarsegold and I remember being completely overwhelmed with a sense of love, passion, and commitment. Throughout my years of experience serving at SSP I have learned far more than just how to build a fence or paint a house, I have learned to love people better, love God better, and love our communities better.

After graduating from High School I plan to go to a four year university to get a major in either history or political science. While I don’t exactly know where I will be attending I plan to eventually become a pastor. I don’t exactly know where that will be taking me but I am super excited to find out where God is taking me.

While I don’t exactly know where I will be attending I plan to eventually become a pastor.

Serving on the Board will equip me with the experience I will need to be able to further myself in the near future. Being able to collaborate with people, share opinions, and gather new concepts and ideas will be able to further develop my thought process. This I believe will help me both in my immediate future and my college career.


Editor’s Note: Liam was able to serve during our summer program so many times because he came to SSP with his church and as an Individual youth. Learn more about SSP’s 2017 locations.

I Did Not Know

I Did Not Know

by Juliette Guilloteau

Food Service Coordinator in Spokane, WA


When I got hired by Sierra Service Project as a Food Service Coordinator, I only had an extremely vague idea of what was ahead of me. I only knew that I was looking forward to traveling to the United States for the first time and that I could not wait to meet my team and have the best summer of my life with them.

Goodness gracious.

Spokane Juliette Pizza

Juliette, left, with a Spokane volunteer making an SSP pizza.

I did not know that I would feel overwhelmed by being the only international staffer and one of the staffers that could say “I have never had any experience with SSP at all before, like, never ever.” I did not know I would miss my family as much as I did. I did not know I would sometimes have to go to bed at midnight and wake up the next morning at 5am. I did not know that it meant no cell service, no direct access to the Internet and that we would have to drive for an hour until we came across the next city. I had no idea that my air mattress would deflate every night. I had no idea that we would have to drive for two days until we even reached our site in Spokane, Washington and that our car would break down in a town like Dunsmuir, Oregon. I did not know that we would have to make eighteen pizzas every Friday and eat excessive amounts of celery every week because we ordered too many bags by mistake. I did not know about the issues with counselors, campers or my team that we would have to deal with throughout the weeks. I did not know about prep week or clean-up week. I did not know about weekly food inventories or the importance of getting receipts for purchases. I did not know I would sometimes need to just stay ten minutes in the bathroom on my own because I had to take a deep breath before going back to work. I did not know any of that. But there is more.

I did not know that working for SSP would change my life.

At the beginning of the first day of Training, all I wanted to do was to go back home to France; I had cried all morning and I was exhausted due to the nine-hour time difference. But by the end of the day, meeting everyone, my team, the office staff, and spending the day hugging people, all I knew was that I never wanted to leave.

Throughout the summer, I grew as a person, as a team member and as a member of the SSP community. I was able to teach children how to do things that I loved doing, and in return they taught me a lot about life and how the world works. I got to inspire and be inspired by people I had never met before and will probably never see again. I tried food I had never had before, and I learned cooking skills that will forever be useful. I met people with their very own stories, people who were willing to share their feelings and thoughts with me because we had learned to trust each other. I met young people who have hearts so full of love they could explode. One wise youth told us that, “SSP is not a place you go to every summer, it’s a mindset”. I learned so much from such a short sentence. If you carry an open heart, if you open your arms to people and if you show unconditional love to anyone you meet, you do not need much more in life. That is the SSP mindset.

I met young people who have hearts so full of love they could explode.

In the span of two months, I felt like I became my truest self. I have never been happier than when I had to make those eighteen pizzas and would see campers come in to help, singing High School Musical. I have never been happier than when I was holding hands with my team and praying before going to bed every night. I have never been happier than when we played Four Square with youth. I have never been happier than every time we sang “Build Me Up Buttercup” together.

SSP made me realize that I am capable, loved and that I have the right to be part of a loving, caring and supportive community no matter where I am. SSP showed me that I could do anything I wanted and made me feel at peace with the world. SSP gave me friends for life, friends I never thought I would end up having such an intense connection with, friends I am going to miss every day until I get to see them again. SSP gave me a purpose and the best summer of my life.


Editor’s Note: Registration for the 2017 summer will be on a first-come, first-served basis starting October 24. Email Veronica Russell with your questions! Applications for the the 2017 summer staff will be made available in early winter.


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  • The last three evenings, #SSPstaff have been led by our five Spiritual Life Coordinators as they practice the ways they will invite volunteers to “Love Courageously” this summer. We are so proud of the work and thought you have all put in to your programs, and can’t wait to see them in action!
  • Meet your 2018 Food Service Coordinators! They will lovingly prepare 27,000 plates of food this summer, fuelling the work of our volunteers.
#Respect #HealthyBodiesHealthySouls #SSPeople #SierraServiceProject
  • SSP is so fortunate to be supported by volunteers of all ages, denominations, and life experiences. Yesterday, six #SSPeople from all over Northern California joined us for our first ever Volunteer Panel at #SSPstafftraining. Thank you all for sharing your stories, expectations, and wisdom with #SSPstaff. We couldn’t do what we do without you.

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