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Brigitte Steel

Brigitte Steel

Staff-in-Training from St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, CA

Since my first SSP experience, I had been excited to serve as a Staff-in-Training. For years I thought about how cool it would be to greet arriving groups, pour love on everyone’s meals, lead kitchen parties, and go FREDding. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, requiring patience, and pushing me out of my comfort zone.

I was right, but there were also so many things I didn’t expect. You can be told what it’s like to feed 70 people, but you won’t know until you’ve done it. I am grateful to learn what goes into making SSP with hands-on experience, and guidance from the amazing Spokane staff!

“SSP has opened me up to feel love for so many people. It has opened my mind and heart to help in any way I can; to find new ways to help others.”

Spokane is a community I always wanted to visit. On my long solo train ride, I found myself longing for something familiar, but I knew I wasn’t alone. With the strengthened bond I had with my youth group after my last week as a youth at SSP, I knew they were praying and thinking about me.

I learned last summer the love we experience at SSP, although it feels otherworldly and magical, can be found anywhere and in anyone. It’s something I have found to be thriving in my church. SSP has opened me up to feel love for so many people. It has opened my mind and heart to help in any way I can; to find new ways to help others. It’s given me something to look forward to in times when I thought I had no place to look forward.

It’s a place I’ve found I can be my truest and best self. SSP has inspired me to do this in everyday life, despite being challenging. I may no longer be a youth and have those same week-long adventures to look forward to, but now I have entire summers of serving to count down the days to.

 

Editor’s Note: Brigitte Steel has served as a youth volunteer with St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, CA and as a Staff-In-Training in Spokane this past summer. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

Kelsie Currie #mySSPstory

Kelsie Currie #mySSPstory

Kelsie Currie
University of California, San Diego 
Spiritual Life Coordinator, Smith River 2017
Riviera UMC

 

My first SSP was in 2010 in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. As my youth group’s rented luxury minivan pulled on to the dirt path that led to our site I was absolutely terrified. After 2 hours of energized staff members, other motivated youth, and a rundown of our week; my spirits changed completely. Since then I have served 5 summers as a youth, 2 as a staff and I have never looked back!

Every summer the thing I’ve looked forward to most has been SSP. My peers talked about summers filled with pool parties and tropical vacations. All I could talk about was my excitement for the beloved road trip with my youth group. Heading off to unknown places and welcomed into a community I felt so fortunate to serve. My friends may have looked at me like I was crazy but SSP is too special not to experience again and again. I was hooked!

 

“Dedicating a week of your summer to service not only can change a homeowner’s life, but your own.”

 

SSP allowed me an outlet to focus on someone other than myself. It has taught me that one of the best and most humbling roles that one can take to express their love is to serve. SSP has taught me that my hands and heart are capable of making a change in a community. It has taught me that the product of service goes far beyond the physical labor you do.

Building garden boxes and painting a strangers house may seem minuscule to some. Yet they represent so much more to the communities we are serving in. Dedicating a week of your summer to service not only can change a homeowner’s life, but your own. SSP opens you to new perspectives, new friendships, and a rejuvenated sense of purpose.

Each summer I was building for others, but I was also building up myself. I became a stronger leader and caring citizen. I became a better team player, a more understanding family member and friend. I strengthened my work ethic and developed a sense of civic responsibility.

 

“Luckily for me, when I was ready to deeper explore my faith, SSP was a starting place for me to do that.”

 

The skills I’m continuing to cultivate at SSP have helped develop me as a problem solver. SSP has given me the experience to serve as a role model to youth and my peers. These skills will be indispensable as I work towards being a child psychologist. My experiences at SSP have allowed me to further explore my call to ministry. I dream of not only serving youth through my career but also by inspiring and guiding them as a youth leader.

The thing that I have always loved about SSP is that it meets you exactly where you are. If you are looking for a place to bond with your youth group and make new friends SSP can be that. If you are looking for a place to build and serve in a community SSP can do that for you. Luckily for me, when I was ready to deeper explore my faith, SSP was a starting place for me to do that.

If you would have told me in 2010 that I would one day be on summer staff I would have laughed in your face. Serving on staff has been one of the most integral part of myself. It has stretched and shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have been able to fathom and I’m so grateful.

 

Editor’s note: Kelsie most recently served on staff in Smith River, CA  as the Spiritual Life Coordinator! She is a Leadership Academy fellow and her story is the ninth part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Kelsie and apply for 2018 summer staff!

Angelina Maniti #mySSPstory

Angelina Maniti #mySSPstory

Angelina Maniti
California State University San Marcos, Senior 
Construction Coordinator, Smith River 2017
United Methodist Church of Vista

 

It’s a blessing to have spent eight wonderful summers with SSP serving as a youth volunteer and a staff member. Never has SSP failed me when it comes to learning new lessons and skills that will last a lifetime.

One of those life lessons is never letting fear keep you from doing what you love. One of my fondest and most memorable SSP trips was when I was a youth volunteer at Fort Hall, Idaho in 2012. The summer’s theme was “Love > Fear.” This theme resonated with me because in my life, out of the two choices, fear always won.

 

Only at SSP can you serve communities, make new friends, learn new skills, and be able to explore your faith.

 

I had been to SSP four times, and had a great admiration and love for the organization. I enjoyed being completely immersed in the community that SSP creates, as well as serves. SSP brings out something unique in people. Only at SSP can you serve communities, make new friends, learn new skills, and be able to explore your faith.

I’ve always loved SSP, yet I never had intentions to apply for staff. I had this fear of the responsibility of being a role model to hundreds of volunteers. I’m someone who prefers the side lines and is more of an observer. The thought of a position where I had to be leading a large group was frightening.

The 2012 staff in Fort Hall helped me realize that if you have a passion for something, you can’t let fear stand in your way. The key to overcoming fear is having total and complete trust in yourself, and in God.

 

It’s empowering and humbling to have the opportunity to be a role model at SSP.

 

My doubt in myself and fear of being a role model can’t stop me from pursuing my love of SSP and the work we do. In choosing love instead of fear, I applied to be on staff in 2016, and again in 2017. As I look back, I remember each staffer from 2012 and the impact their leadership had on me.

I count my lucky stars I chose love and had faith that my experience and skills would be valuable in leading teams. Leadership is not something you can learn from a book. Leadership can only grow through experiences. I’m grateful that SSP provides a safe place for young people to have these experiences. It’s empowering and humbling to be a role model at SSP.

 

Editor’s note: Angelina most recently served on staff in Smith River, CA as a Construction Coordinator. She is a Leadership Academy fellow and her story is the fifth of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Angelina and apply for 2018 summer staff!

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!

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  • SSPers in SoCal: have you been waiting for an SSP meet-up near you? Join the 2019 Site Directors, office staff, and volunteers next Friday December 14 for one of two meet-ups in West Los Angeles! The first is coffee hour for volunteers and group leaders at @westwoodumcla from 9:30-11:30am. The second is a staff interest dinner, for staff alumni, SITs, and graduated youth. You can see more details and RSVP on SSP’s Facebook event page (link in bio). DM us with any questions!
  • "Seeing God’s work in action proved to me that good exists in this world of hurt; it just needs to be facilitated; igniting a new hope in me." Read Andrea Maniti's story about how serving with SSP changed her view on what it means to have faith: SierraServiceProject.org/Andrea
  • "SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful." Read Emma Healy's story about how SSP has inspired her to bring SSP to her own community: SierraServiceProject.org/emma

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