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Meet the 2021 Summer Staff

Meet the 2021 Summer Staff

We are so excited to embark on our 46th summer of fellowship and fun! Read on to learn more about the twelve passionate young people who will design and lead our summer program.

Our site partnerships look different than before. Participants will have an opportunity to connect with and learn from various community partners and explore topics important to them. Join us to develop skills around cultural humility, elevating local voices, and better understanding our neighbors.

Indigenous Communities Today

  • Jessica Parker, Site Director
  • Maggie Guekguezian, Spiritual Life Coordinator
  • Ronnie Swenson, Media Coordinator
  • Ashley Rios, Activities Coordinator
  • Kate Grobey, Activities Coordinator
  • Lauren Reynolds, Activities Coordinator
Jessica Parker, Site Director

What is your favorite part of the online summer program?

“Definitely Community Crossing! I’m able to combine my own passions about food insecurity and food deserts to teach youth about how those issues relate to the communities we serve with. Community Crossing provides a virtual connection to the place and people youth would be interacting with in-person at SSP, which is also really important.”Jessica Parker

Maggie Guekguezian, Spiritual Life Coordinator

What are you hoping to share with participants this summer?

“I hope to share some of the many practices of spiritual reflection I’ve encountered in my studies and maintain in my life. I hope sharing this will help participants gain insights about themselves, the Divine, and how to live in community with each other.”Maggie Guekguezian

Ronnie Swenson, Media Coordinator

What are you hoping to share with participants this summer?

“I’m really looking forward to sharing life experiences with participants and hearing their stories as well. We all have been affected by this past year in many ways and getting the time to share and listen to others will be greatly beneficial to everyone.” Ronnie Swenson

Ashley Rios, Activities Coordinator

What is your favorite part of the online summer program?

Getting to meet people I wouldn’t meet if we were in person. It was super cool and I can’t wait to meet more people this summer! – Ashley Rios

Kate Grobey, Activities Coordinator

What are you hoping to share with participants this summer?

I am hoping to provide fun activities this summer, as well as meaningful ways to stay engaged in our own communities and service during times of physical distancing. – Kate Grobey

Lauren Reynolds, Activities Coordinator

What are you looking forward to this summer?

I am looking forward to making new connections and learning more about Indigenous Communities Today. I am so excited to continue learning about my faith, my team, and make new friends in the process! – Lauren Reynolds

Environmental and Housing Justice

  • Austin Jones, Site Director
  • Everest Harvey, Spiritual Life Coordinator
  • Kathryn Henry, Media Coordinator
  • Alli Meusling, Activities Coordinator
  • Amanda Smith, Activities Coordinator
  • Joshua Philips, Activities Coordinator
Austin Jones, Site Director

What are you most excited for this summer?

“More than anything I am looking forward to seeing participants on a day-to-day basis again. COVID has been hard for everyone over the past year and seeing participants every day last summer was really fulfilling for me. It gave me a sense of connection that I am excited to rekindle this summer.”Austin Jones

Everest Harvey, Spiritual Life Coordinator

What is your favorite part of the online summer program?

“I love getting to be part of building a community even from so far apart! The online program allows for a lot of different people to come together no matter where they are or what season of life they are in, and that is really special.” – Everest Harvey

Kathryn Henry, Media Coordinator

What are you looking forward to about this summer?

“I’m looking forward to stepping into the new MC role and finding new ways to connect with the SSP community. Unlike last year, this program was designed for an online format from the beginning, so I’m excited about improving on what we were able to do last summer. As always, I’m also excited to spend (virtual) time with my staff team and our participants!”Kathryn Henry

Alli Meusling, Activities Coordinator

What are you looking forward to this summer?

I’m looking forward to getting to meet all of our wonderful participants! We have an amazing program in the works for y’all and we can’t wait to share it with you!Alli Meusling

Amanda Smith, Activities Coordinator

What are you looking forward to this summer?

I am looking forward to learning alongside participants and fellow staff members while incorporating little touches of the staff magic that makes SSP such an amazing experience. – Amanda Smith

Joshua Phillips, Activities Coordinator

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Getting to meet all the new participants, and see some familiar faces from last year! 🙂 – Joshua Phillips

Editor’s Note: Join these passionate staff members to learn more about our partner communities and cultivate an ethic of service through collaboration! Learn more and register.

Wendy Bernard

Homeowner in Chiloquin, OR

My experience with Sierra Service Project is one of awe. Daily I wondered where I could turn for the help my husband and I were search of. We needed a ramp to make it easier for both of us to get in and out of our home, and I had run out of places to go. One day, I saw mention of SSP in the weekly newsletter for our small town of Chiloquin. After a couple years of waiting for those that were more in need than us to get work done, I filled out the application.

“They talked to us like we were old friends and listened to our stories.”

I was surprised when I got the call we had been chosen. I counted down the days, and I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. How would we be received by the workers? The day they arrived, I was so surprised at how warm and welcoming everyone was, all my concerns gone. It was as if family had come home to help me out. The volunteers were smiling, polite, and totally put me at ease.

They talked to us like we were old friends and listened to our stories. It had been a long time since I had seen that amount of dedication from young people. You could see the care and pride they had in their work. Their love and concern for us as individuals brought smiles to our faces. I would spend each day outside with them. I looked forward to their arrival every day, and when they left, it was as if my own children had returned to their homes.

“I wish they could have seen the day my husband came down the ramp, both arms in the air in victory in being able to leave the house without the pain of walking down steps.”

These young people went above and beyond. In return, I just had to do something for them, so I provided pitchers of lemonade, which they seemed to truly appreciate. They were a blessing and a bright light in the darkness that had become our battle for help.

They will forever be part of my heart and I wish they knew how much they mean to me. I wish they could have seen the day my husband came down the ramp, both arms in the air in victory in being able to leave the house without the pain of walking down steps, and the ease of me being able to do the same. We will never forget those who worked at our home and I hope in the future others will know the blessing of SSP’s work.

 

Editor’s Note: 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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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.
Sally Kadifa

Sally Kadifa

Parent of SSP Youth from First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, CA

We donate to SSP because of the opportunities for service it has provided for our daughter, Charlotte. She is a senior in high school and has participated in both middle and high school SSP trips with her youth group at our church, First Congregational Church of Palo Alto. These service trips are truly a highlight of Charlotte’s summer vacation.

“We are impressed Sierra Service Project makes the effort to develop constructive and long-term partnerships with the communities the programs serve.”

She has had fun “doing good” for others while bonding with teens from our church as well as teens from churches around the West Coast. She’s learned how to paint, use power tools, and construct a wheelchair ramp. She’s enjoyed meeting some of the individuals who so graciously permit SSP participants and staff to work on their homes, community facilities, and parks.

“Teens see the injustice and inequality in our society, and SSP empowers them to do something about it.”

We are impressed Sierra Service Project makes the effort to develop constructive and long-term partnerships with the communities the programs serve, and works with them to identify and complete projects that truly benefit the community. Charlotte’s experiences with SSP have informed her belief system and values. Teens see the injustice and inequality in our society, and SSP empowers them to do something about it. Thank you, SSP!

 

Editor’s Note: Join the Kadifa family and over 600 annual donors in supporting SSP financially. 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.

Donate Today
Your gift empowers youth to build faith and strengthen communities through service to others.
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