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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.

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!

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