12xSSP Spotlight: Ryan Cernik

Ryan Cernik
Former Youth Volunteer with Loomis First UMC
2017 Site Director in Chiloquin, OR
12xSSP Donor

What have you gained from your SSP experiences?

Ryan: “SSP has empowered me to make better choices in my everyday life. The world needs more love, and SSP creates a foundation for that love to flow. SSP helps transform the action of love into a habit; a habit that can bring out the brightest of colors from the saddest of hearts. SSP not only creates an environment of love, but also of truth. The freedom of taking off one’s mask and truly being vulnerable has helped me make deeper connections with people from every walk of life. SSP is the only place where I’ve truly felt whole. Everyone becomes family, and we all need someone to lean on.”

“The freedom of taking off one’s mask and truly being vulnerable has helped me make deeper connections with people from every walk of life.”

What are you doing now?

Ryan: “I’m currently in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I am nearly finished with a Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. However, what has really changed my life has been my minor in Religious Studies. SSP spurred my intrigue in the religions across the globe and has pushed me to continue my quest for knowledge pertaining to all cultures and beliefs. SSP may be grounded in Christianity, but it is run through the religion of love; a religion that anyone can share if they give it a chance.”

“SSP enhances the lives of those involved, and gives to those in need. What’s better than that?”

Why have you chosen to give to SSP?

Ryan: “I have chosen to give to SSP because it is the best thing to give to. One could spend their money on excess food, designer clothes, and meaningless trinkets, but at the end of the day who does that help? SSP enhances the lives of those involved, and gives to those in need. What’s better than that?”


Editor’s Note: Ryan is one of several recent 12xSSP donors we want to highlight this month. You also can donate monthly to SSP like Ryan, and guess what: there’s no minimum amount required! Your gift will help sustain stories like hers for other youth and young adults who participate in the program, paving the way for a transformed and more loving future. Become a 12xSSP donor today.

Seeking, Serving, Growing at SSP

By Holly Kennedy

Group Liaison for Ladera Community Church (LCC)


My first experience with Sierra Service Project was with St. Mark’s UMC in Sacramento as a junior in high school (summer of 1996), and I’ve only missed a few summers since then. It was such a transformative experience that I have made it my quest to get every church I’m a part of involved. Ladera Community Church is no exception.

When I came to LCC in 2012, there was a good group of youth, but no real youth program. I immediately knew SSP would be a great way for our group to build lasting relationships through serving others and exploring faith together. SSP has become a favorite for the youth, and the congregation is eager to support the program.

While I have participated in SSP in many ways over the years, this January was the first time I had ever attended SSP with middle school youth. As our active youth graduate out of the youth group, I hope to get the next generation excited about serving with SSP by giving them a taste of the program through the Weekends of Service.

“Service is a big part of who we are as a faith community, and Sierra Service Project helps us extend the reach of our service to communities in need,”

Our weekend in Sacramento was a great introduction for newer youth, and it whet the appetite of some of our older youth, who will serve this summer in Chiloquin. Through the hard work of four work teams, we rebuilt sections of fencing, painted a home, and built planter boxes at a community garden. We were also supported and led by a great group of SSP staff who gave guidance on the worksite, provided food and programming, and showed love to the youth.

Sierra Service Project provides an opportunity for growth, to youth and adults alike. Our high schoolers were given the opportunity to exercise and strengthen their leadership skills. Our middle schoolers had the opportunity to participate in a service project apart from their parents. Our adult leaders were given the opportunity to grow in how we support middle school youth who are apart from their parents.

At Ladera Community Church, our three pillars are “seeking, serving, and growing,” so you could say service is our middle name – just like SSP! Service is a big part of who we are as a faith community, and Sierra Service Project helps us extend the reach of our service to communities in need throughout the Western United States. SSP has become a part of the fabric of our community, and will no doubt continue to be woven into the fabric of the lives of youth and adults who participate year after year.


Editor’s Note: A Weekend of Service is the perfect way to try out SSP for the first time! Check out more January weekend photos on our Facebook. We are hosting sessions in Sacramento and Portland over President’s Day weekend, February 17-19, and are open to hosting additional groups this spring. Contact Veronica Russell to sign up or serve during dates your group is available!

Bridge Builders

By Helen Mansfield

Pastor and SSP Liaison

Federated Church of Placerville


Two Intel employees, one Christian and one Muslim, decided to take their friendship to a different level. Out of that relationship, Federated Church of Placerville and the Muslim Community of Folsom (MCF) began an exchange intended to promote understanding and dialogue, as well as dispel misinformation. While the adults had participated in several joint activities, there was a push to get both communities’ youth together. I instantly thought of SSP because one of the things I value about SSP is the project’s ability to build bridges.

“One of the things I value about SSP is the project’s ability to build bridges.”

The first thing we encountered was common ground on just how busy youth are in our culture. It took no less than twenty-two emails and multiple phone calls to get a day over winter break nailed down (pun intended). So, while many youth were celebrating a break from school by sleeping in, six youth from Federated and a youth and young adult from MCF came together to serve in Rancho Cordova.

Our first project involved removing an old chain link fence. We made short work of the project, with everyone wanting to take a turn at the over-sized jack to lift old fence posts and their concrete anchoring out of the ground. We enjoyed some conversation with one of the homeowners over coffee and donuts she provided. Then, we moved on to another site to finish building a fence.

Lunch was another highlight of the day. Sitting over food from California Kabob, we learned about halal. Muslims require that animals that are consumed for food must be raised and slaughtered humanely. My real treat from lunch was watching Laura Seiling, SSP Rancho Cordova Program Coordinator, and Aminah Habib, a UC Irvine student, excitedly share their take on the new Star Wars movie, only to be shushed by the rest of the group who didn’t want any spoilers revealed.

“This day of service filled me with hope. We have far more in common than we realize.”

At a time when we seem so focused on what divides us, this day of service filled me with hope. We have far more in common than we realize. Thank you Sierra Service Project for giving us this opportunity to work side by side, building bridges and community.


Editor’s Note: Helen Mansfield recently started collaborating to implement interfaith youth activities with the Muslim Community of Folsom. If you’re intrigued by Helen’s experience and story, consider building bridges of your own by serving in Rancho Cordova for a day this spring! Contact Laura Sieling for more information.

Returning to Hózhó

By Silver Nez Perry

SSP Community Contact in Tsaile, Arizona


“Ts’ídá nitsáago ‘áhxéhee’ yéego baa ‘ahééh daniidzin nihikah anaajáhígíí.”

“Thank you very much, those of you who continue to help us, we appreciate it very much.”

Naabeehó elders

When it comes to living in beauty (Hózhó) it is not only through mind, body and spirit. Hózhó is also obtained by having a well maintained home and surroundings. And when a home is in disarray, Naabeehó elders don’t feel that sense of Hózhó, that sense of completeness.

Through their many completed projects, Sierra Service Project has made it possible for my Naabeehó elders to return to Hózhó.

“Nihihooghan dóó nihináágóó Hózhó Náhasdlíí’, ahxéhee.”

“Beauty has been restored to our home and within our surroundings. Thank you.”

Editor’s Note: SSP has received a generous grant from the Bruce & Diane Halle Foundation, which allows us to complete many more challenging construction projects than in previous years. We are very grateful! There are still spaces available most weeks in Tsaile, AZ for groups and individuals interested in serving during summer 2017.


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