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Will Wood

Will Wood

Youth Board Member from Pt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, Elk Grove, CA

I have participated in SSP four times, in San Diego, Smith River, Spokane, and Tsaile, all at high school sessions. Through my trips with SSP, I have acquired a plethora of memories and experiences, each of them special in their own way. A few of these include learning about the rich history of Chicano-Americans in San Diego, racing to save the beautiful Tolowa Dunes outside Smith River from invasive European beachgrass, and strategically demolishing an awning on a twelve-foot-tall deck in Spokane.

If I had to choose just one significant memory, it would be from Tsaile this year. Dr. Silver Nez Perry, a Diné community leader, talked to our whole group about motivation and how to be successful in life. To hear such inspiring words come from a place one would not necessarily seek it out was especially intriguing. Silver’s words have stuck with me since then, and will be with me for a long time to come. These (and many more memories) have made SSP a formative and important experience for me.

“To be able to significantly impact the life of someone else, while simultaneously deepening your own faith and connecting with fellow Christians, is a special thing I am proud to be a part of.”

Sierra Service Project has somehow struck the perfect balance between church retreats and service projects. To be able to significantly impact the life of someone else, while simultaneously deepening your own faith and connecting with fellow Christians, is a special thing I am proud to be a part of. The duality of helping others while also helping yourself, although in different ways, is what truly has made SSP an important experience in my life that has yet to reach its final chapter.

SSP has given me so many great memories. Through each of my four trips with SSP, I have become enthralled with philanthropy and the deepening of faith. When I am older, I would love to be involved in the non-profit world, to help others find that same passion. This is why I have chosen to serve on SSP’s Board of Directors, to help others find their passion through service. Serving on the Board of Directors will allow me to give back to a worthy organization, and help other teenagers take advantage of opportunities to serve with SSP.

 

Editor’s Note: Will Wood is a senior that attends SSP with Pt. Pleasant United Methodist Church. He has been elected this year to serve as a youth representative on SSP’s Board of Directors. 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.

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First-come, first-served registration is open for SSP's summer of 2019! If you are your group's liaison, click the button to login to your MySSP account.
Andrea Maniti

Andrea Maniti

Youth Board Member from Vista United Methodist Church, Vista, CA

Youth today juggle classes, extracurriculars, and everything in between, leaving no room to breathe and grow. The pressure to be a well-rounded person sometimes compromises one’s passion. Sierra Service Project allows youth to discover not only different communities in the world, but also themselves, as they explore their own identity and passions.

At least once in our lives we have been told something like, “life is about the journey.” It’s very cheesy and cliché, but also true. At the beginning of a week at SSP, you are plunked into a place you have most likely never been before, whether it be a gym in Chiloquin, or the red clay of Tsaile, Arizona. You are in new surroundings, with new people. You find yourself embraced by an open community who wholeheartedly accepts you, for you. Throughout the week you discover new things you never would have known otherwise, about yourself and others, in a safe and nurturing environment free of judgment; a safe haven.

“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.”

I have always struggled with my faith. Growing up, I was taken to church every Sunday, and sat in the same pew between my parents while the pastor proceeded with their sermon. My first time attending SSP sharply contrasts with my most recent summer trip in 2018. The main aspect that has altered my entire relationship with my faith is my overall confidence. Before SSP, I never took notice of how seldom I dedicated myself to growing my faith. It was a topic I never thought to explore for myself. My natural instincts led me to piggyback on the ideas of my parents, or popular beliefs. I always labeled myself as a Christian and attended church, but failed to interpret God’s teachings for myself.

Sierra Service Project helped me open myself to the world, resulting in me opening myself to God. 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. SSP allows youth to see the bigger picture of the world; both good and bad. The SSP experience puts the world into perspective. The overall message of Sierra Service Project is to provide service to others above self, and contribute to the betterment of communities in need.

“Even though Mary didn’t speak a single word, her tears and strong hugs were enough to bring our work team to joyous tears.”

I will never forget my first year at SSP in Tsaile, Arizona, where our work team had just finished the top of a wheelchair ramp. The homeowner, Mary, no more than five feet tall. Every day we worked on her ramp, she would sit under a tree in a chair, with assistance from her nephew. On our last day, Mary took her first stride out of her house by herself. This was Mary’s first time stepping outside without assistance in a long time. Even though Mary didn’t speak a single word, her tears and strong hugs were enough to bring our work team to joyous tears.

This moment made me realize – this is God’s work. Sierra Service Project truly shows in order to see good in the world, you must put good into the world. There is an active love felt by every single person involved that promotes a foundation of growth and providing service above self. As a participant, you learn there are so many things much bigger than you happening in the world. This, in turn, opens your perspective to the world and your ability to create change.

 

Editor’s Note: Andrea Maniti is a senior that attends SSP with Vista United Methodist Church. She has been elected this year to serve as a youth representative on SSP’s Board of Directors. 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.

SSP's Group Registration Portal
First-come, first-served registration is open for SSP's summer of 2019! If you are your group's liaison, click the button to login to your MySSP account.
Twelve SSP Experiences

Twelve SSP Experiences

by Liam Smith

Youth Board Member from Elk Grove United Methodist Church

 

liam-stockton-reinvent

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.

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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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