Cheerful, confident, kind, service-oriented. These words describe my dear friend Song Vang, a former Richter Center Ambassador, now a Fresno State graduate. She’s still making a difference in her community through her career choice. Sharing a meal just the other night with her brought a flood of memories, as we served together as Ambassadors for a year. With dark hair falling to her shoulders, spunky glasses, and a gracious demeanor, she is a picture of a blossoming young professional. I was ecstatic when she agreed to be interviewed!
Song is currently the project coordinator of Food to Share, a branch of Fresno Metro Ministries. However, before she entered this community-benefit career, she served for four years as a Richter Center Ambassador and three years as a Reflection Facilitator.
As I prepare to graduate this spring, it is especially valuable to hear the perspective of those, like Song, ‘on the other side’ of graduation. I loved hearing how her involvement at Fresno State has affected her decisions and career choice to this point.
A bit of background on this service giant: Song entered college on a pre-medical pathway at the urging of many. However, as she became more involved on campus, Song reports, things changed. She found American Sign Language and the deaf community which caused a change in major, and was drawn to the Richter Center which increased her involvement on campus. These discoveries predominantly allowed her to have “a voice of [her] own.” Song learned to pursue her own community, instead of focusing on getting out of Fresno, which is often the goal of bright young folks here in the Central Valley.
“I fell in love with service.”
A number of experiences led Song to her long term of service as a Richter Center student leader. This inspirational alumna participated in Emerging Leaders Retreat, Alternative Spring Break, and connected with then-ambassadors Jonathan (now with Ronald McDonald House Charities) and Daini, who inspired her to become an Ambassador.
After she began serving on the Richter Center Ambassador team, Song was also asked to serve on the Service-Learning Subcommittee of the Academic Senate. Being a student among faculty changing and improving syllabi and courses is empowering; the student is treated as equal.
Song was similarly inspired by the Humanics program at Fresno State, and by her involvement in Fresno State’s Food Recovery Network.
Alongside a handful of other student leaders, she founded the Reflection Facilitators (ReFs) to bring more structured, meaningful reflections to the Richter Center’s one day service events. According to Song, the ReFs are”all about building relationships and making connections.”
While commenting on her new job, Song reports that just as in Richter Center student leadership, the focus at Food to Share is on “building relationships every day.” Connecting and engaging with others is vital at this community benefit organization, where Song and her team seek not just to gather food donations, but to link stakeholders involved in solving the community needs surrounding food insecurity. A challenge for her has been connecting to partners strongly situated in silos, territorial of their own work. She has learned the importance of breaking barriers and connecting with all individuals facing the issue.
As we reflected on our shared Ambassador experience, we remembered all the events our team planned, retreats, and especially connecting and presenting on “Stories of Service” at the the Continuums of Service conference, held in Hawaii in 2014. Being an Ambassador is all about building relationships with peers in order to inspire them to serve as well.”As Ambassadors, we genuinely love our campus and want to better it,” she said eloquently.
Song’s service legacy lives on at Fresno State. She says herself, “There’s a piece of me at Fresno State always.” Song strongly influenced my growth as a service leader. I am forever thankful for her friendship and beautiful example, and look forward to remaining friends for years to come.
Who has inspired you? How are you using your talents to inspire others? Are you creating a “legacy” wherever you serve?
February 17, 2016 at 12:30 pm
A beautiful tribute from one amazing young woman to another! Song Vang and Lilliana Toste… you are two of the most incredible young women to ever grace the Richter Center with their time and talents. Thank you so very much to you both!!!