Andrew Freedman #mySSPstory

Andrew Freedman #mySSPstory

Andrew Freedman
University of California Santa Barbara, Junior
Spiritual Life Coordinator, Spokane 2017
Point Pleasant United Methodist Church

 

I’m a Junior at UC Santa Barbara where I study Statistics and I’m working to become a financial analyst. I have volunteered with SSP since middle school and through high school for a total of seven summers. These experiences inspired me to be on staff the last two years.

In middle and high school I found that people were always skeptical of what people my age were capable of. People always said I was “just a kid” or “not old enough.” Looking back, I see that it wasn’t me who wasn’t old enough, it was that no one had given me the opportunity.

Sierra Service Project was the exception to this. At SSP I was always reassured that I could do anything I set my mind to. People at SSP were trusting me and my work team with their homes. They trusted us to build them a new deck or ramp to be able to get into their home. We had a lot of responsibility.

 

SSP teaches people that they can make a difference to others with their actions, words, and their love. 

 

Each week as a volunteer at SSP it was clear the impacts our work had. We watched our projects come to life and some years my work team even finished a project.

The most empowering experience I had was after my team and I finished a new deck and stairs for a lovely woman. This woman was now able to leave the back of her house safely. She explained how she was skeptical of “a bunch of kids building her deck.” It wasn’t until we got started and she saw how dedicated we were when she realized she was wrong to assume.

 

These lessons I learned at SSP will stick with me for the rest of my life.

 

SSP teaches people that they can make a difference to others with their actions, words, and their love. These lessons I learned at SSP will stick with me for the rest of my life. Now that I am a young adult, I’ve transferred my SSP participation to staffing. As a staffer I am responsible for instilling the lessons I learned on others. I am excited to be the adult that believes in the potential of youth, because of the impact that belief had on me.

I’m excited to participate in the Leadership Academy because I know how much I will learn. I am excited to expand my skills and learn to reach out to others and help them grow as individuals. This opportunity will allow me to have a positive impact on others, while helping me learn and grow as a person.

 

Editor’s note: Andrew most recently served on staff in Spokane, WA as a Spiritual Life Coordinator. He is a Leadership Academy fellow and his story is the sixth part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Andrew and apply for 2018 summer staff!

Brennan Ackerman #mySSPstory

Brennan Ackerman #mySSPstory

Brennan Ackerman
University of Vermont, Senior
Construction Coordinator, Spokane 2017
United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks

Eight years ago, I just finished up my last year of middle school and was headed into high school. I knew the roller coaster of high school was ahead, but little did I know I was headed into another big first. My first SSP.

I had heard so much about SSP over and over again from my two older siblings who had gone in years prior. When the time came, we woke up early, hopped into mini vans with my youth group, and drove two days to McDermitt, Nevada. As we arrived the staff members ran and jumped on our cars to greet us with an almost frightening amount of energy.

Pretty soon I was on a work team and headed to a work site in the middle of the desert. My first “SSProject” with my work team was starting a roof. This more or less means they gave us a bunch of shovels, hammers, and pry bars, and instructed us to “take the roof off this house”. We had a pretty great time, needless to say.

 

I learned more and more each summer and I have been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

 

I went to SSP as a youth for the next four years, each time learning something new, meeting new people, and spending a lot of time with my family and friends. Each year, I was challenged with an opportunity to be a leader. These opportunities started small, eventually growing to being the go-to youth between my church’s counselors and youth.

During my time as a youth I decided I wanted to be on staff, and after my first year of college I got that opportunity. My first summer on staff I was a Construction Coordinator in Walker River, Nevada. The seven of us had the opportunity to create for others the experiences that shaped each of us, six times over the summer.

My job had many moving parts. My job included leading projects and work teams at sites, speaking in front of the youth and adults. But also, so much more that can’t be fit into a job description.

 

I learned more about how to be a leader from SSP than anywhere else, because it gave me the most opportunities to grow.

 

Over the next two summers I reprised my role as a Construction Coordinator in Chiloquin, OR and Spokane, WA. Each summer I got to be a part of a new team, be in a new place, and have whole new experiences. I learned more and more each summer, and have been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I learned more about how to be a leader from SSP than anywhere else, because it gave me the most opportunities to grow. I know I am a better leader because of SSP. I know that as I stay a part of the SSP community, my abilities and knowledge as a leader will only continue to grow.

 

Editor’s note: Brennan most recently served on staff in Spokane, WA as a Construction Coordinator. He is a Leadership Academy fellow and his story is the fourth part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Brennan and apply for 2018 summer staff!

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Jake Bailey
Business Manger
Sierra Service Project

Transgender Day of Remembrance is always a hard day for me. It is a time when we remember all of the Trans people whose lives were lost in acts of Anti-Transgender violence. People who were killed for no other reason than that they were true to themselves; and that act caused someone to feel deceived or offended to decide that their lives should be cut short. The majority of Trans people who are killed are trans women of color, who face both Transphobia and Racism. And unfortunately the number keeps growing each year, with at least 25 deaths in the US so far in 2017.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important is because our lives matter! Trans people are human beings. Their names and stories could be forgotten if we don’t celebrate their lives after they’re gone. Trans remembrance is also important because these murders are hate crimes. Yet they are usually not prioritized by police and often go unsolved. In remembering those we’ve lost, we remind ourselves these things still happen. Lives will be lost, and things won’t change unless people are aware and take action. As a Trans man, it is also a reminder that if the wrong people find out that I am trans and get angry enough about it, that I too could be killed. Any of us could. But Transgender Day of Remembrance is most importantly about community and being there for each other through the good and the bad. Being a Trans man is a huge part of who I am, and it is important in my relationships with friends and in shaping my values.

So what are some things that we can do this year to make our communities a safer place for Trans people?

  1. Don’t out anyone. Coming out is a personal decision, and can be a risky one. Don’t put someone else’s life on the line by trying to share their story. If you need an example to educate someone, don’t use their name or identifying information.
  2. Make sure that the spaces you inhabit (work, school, home, church, etc.) are safe places for Trans people. That could mean having gender neutral bathrooms accessible, or specifically letting Trans people know that they are welcome.
  3. Stand up for Trans people. If you hear someone being harassed or bullied because of their gender, check to see if they are okay and stay with them. Tell the perpetrators to stop, and call for help if needed.
  4. Educate your family and friends about the Trans community. The more that people know about someone, the less likely they are to fear or feel threatened by them. We are all human and have more similarities than we have differences.
  5. Fight against discriminatory legislation. Whether it is a bathroom bill, employment discrimination protections, ID change laws, or transgender people being banned from the military, pay attention to what laws are being proposed and let your representatives know how you feel about them.
  6. Support Trans visibility in politics and the media. Whether it is a Trans person running for office or a Trans actor on your favorite TV show, representation matters. For transgender children and youth, seeing people like them means that they have role models to aspire towards. And for cisgender people it helps humanize Trans people and can change opinions.
  7. Don’t support politicians or businesses that are hostile to Trans people. With enough pressure from the general population, Anti-LGBT business will go out of business and politicians will get voted out. Make this a non-negotiable criteria.

Editor’s Note: Jake has been the Business Manager at SSP since 2013 and served as a youth volunteer and Staff-In-Training. Jake graduated in 2011 from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies with distinction. He was also the first person to graduate from Sonoma State with a Queer Studies minor. Refresh your knowledge of LGBTQ+ language.

Jordan Karnes #mySSPstory

Jordan Karnes #mySSPstory

Jordan Karnes
Sonoma State University, Junior
Food Service Coordinator, Tsaile 2017
Point Pleasant United Methodist Church

 

Being a part of the SSP community has been one of the most influential parts of my life. Without SSP I would not have developed into the leader I am today. Because of the time and energy I’ve dedicated to this program, I have thrived as a leader in recent years. I’ve grown so much thanks to the people I’ve met, and the experiences we’ve had together.

 

These factors, although I didn’t know it at the time, were fundamental to shaping me into the person I am today.

 

Since my first week as a youth in Fort Hall in 2011, every SSP week I’ve experienced has uniquely impacted me. As a youth, SSP mesmerized me. I loved being a part of a work team and getting to know youth from other places with hearts for service like me. The staff members empowered me and I always looked up to them. These factors, although I didn’t know it at the time, were fundamental to shaping me into the person I am today.

In 2014 in Tsaile I met Chloe Parker, and we started to talk about life, staff, faith, and everything in between. I looked up to Chloe so much because she is strong, confident, and the type of leader I want to be one day. To this day, I don’t think Chloe knows that she’s the main reason I applied for staff. I can only hope that I am able to impact youth in a similar way.

 

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to have this organization in my life.

 

I’ve been able to translate my leadership skills from SSP into so many areas of my life. I’m the community service chair of my sorority, and I lead a weekly Bible study.

This year, I’ve gotten the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Academy. I will continue to develop my leadership alongside so many amazing SSPeople by my side. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to have this organization in my life. It’s an honor to be a part of this community that values and empowers young leaders like me and so many others!

 

Editor’s note: Jordan most recently served on staff in Tsaile, AZ as a Food Service Coordinator. She is a Leadership Academy fellow and her story is the seventh part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Jordan and apply for 2018 summer staff!

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