The Richter Center Student Leaders

Service. Community. Integrity. Growth.


Every Neighborhood Partnership

Lessons in Service: Saturday Sports

“This is so much fun!”

I cherish these words from the students at Ericson Elementary School during a recent Saturday Sports activity.  Saturday Sports is a program organized by Every Neighborhood Partnership (ENP), with a mission “to connect churches and community partners to elementary schools and to equip them to serve through their active presence in every neighborhood.”

What it boils down to is being a better neighbor.

Our boys at Ericson Elementary engaging in an intense game of flag football.
Our boys at Ericson Elementary engaging in an intense game of flag football.

Last year, I heard about Saturday Sports through the Richter Center Student Leadership grapevine. Although I was not an Ambassador at the time, I was very much interested in completing personal service hours with kids. I was already a tutor for Wise Old Owl, the after school program for kids in the Lowell Neighborhood, organized by the Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership (FIFUL).  However, as I started a new job this year, I was no longer able to commit the time for after school tutoring.

I sure miss the kids from Wise Old Owl, but sometimes life forces you to pick up your things and move on. This can be especially difficult for the kids because some are familiar with inconsistency and people entering and exiting their lives.

On a Thursday night at my church’s college community, there were sign-ups going around for Saturday Sports at two nearby elementary schools. Ericson Elementary, was going to be led by my former internship staff member, Daniel, and his wife Brenda. I was excited about the opportunity, but also worried that I would be inconsistent in my attendance and use being a busy college student as an excuse. However, I wanted to try because even if I connected with one student, and could be a consistent presence in his or her life, that would be enough.

The first Saturday in September was a hot one; typical Fresno weather. I showed up before our site leaders and any other volunteers, and I was hopeful that it was going to be a good day. I met Chris, Josh and Jonah among the adult volunteers from the Valley Dream Center, for a total of ten volunteers. We did not expect the overflow of children at 9 a.m., but that is what we got. Nearly 30 children showed up for a first Saturday Sports. We played soccer, flag football, colored, sculpted with Playdough, and more. Kids were elated and never short of energy. Parents even joined in on the games. They just wanted more time to spend with us.

Kevin waiting to topple a train of Jenga pieces.
Kevin waiting to topple a train of Jenga pieces.

I even received a colored picture of a turtle from one of the young girls in attendance. I pinned it to a wall in my room, next to a mish-mash of other special handwritten notes and photos.

The beautiful turtle colored and autographed by Davine.
The beautiful turtle colored and autographed by Davine.

After the conclusion of a recent Saturday morning, volunteers were invited to an ENP training. We met the staff of ENP, heard their history, and their vision for the city of Fresno. At the training, we discussed engaging parents in our program as part of their Five Step Process. This was of particular interest for me because I want to build a relationship with the families attending our program.

One takeaway from that discussion was it’s not about us (the volunteers) imposing our ways and our thoughts of what makes a “good neighborhood.” It’s about our neighbors (both parents and kids). Parents especially have many valuable assets because they know more about the neighborhood than we do. It’s encouraged to let parents lead activities and share their skills with us and the students, even if that is simply teaching a student how to play checkers.

It has been seven weeks since the first Saturday Sports. I recognize faces and remember names. They are no longer just the boys from Daniel and Brenda’s apartments, the artistic girl in middle school, or the twins who like to play badminton. They are Kevin, Jesus, Jorgie, Skye, Jay’den, and Dav’ion. I know their teachers’ names, what type of music they like, how many siblings they have, and the like. No Saturday has been the same, but each Saturday has taught me something new about service.

What are you doing to serve your neighborhood? What volunteer experiences have made an impact on your life?

~Ambassador/Reflection Facilitator Erika D. Castanon

Reflecting on Service: Through the Eyes of a Premedical Student

I wanted to reflect on my year of service and how the Ambassador program changed my perception of what service is. Before being a part of the Ambassador program, my service was limited to working in medical or clinical settings. For three years, I have been an active volunteer with the Saint Agnes Volunteer program. Working in a hospital setting allowed me to interact with people from different paths, incomes, and social/economic classes. However as time went on, I worried that I wasn’t making as much of an impact as I knew I could.


This led me to branch out and use service to explore and connect with different people. For the past month, I’ve been alternating working with Every Neighborhood Partnership’s Saturday Sports at Lincoln Elementary, Stellar Science at Fresno State, and passing out sandwiches to homeless people on the East side of Fresno. I was astounded by how eager people are to connect and share their pain, joy, and lives! Connecting with the homeless in east and downtown Fresno has given me so much insight on how other people make do with what they have. Simply taking an hour or two of my time has formed relationships with people I would never have in a hospital setting.


Since medicine is my future career, working in other service avenues gives me skills and experiences that will definitely be invaluable to me as I continue on my path. I will have greater knowledge of the needs of different parts of the community as well as an understanding of how to best serve my patients.

If you are interested in working with any of the volunteer services I’ve mentioned, please check these links!

Saint Agnes Volunteering:

Saturday Sports:

Passing out sandwiches: I wasn’t involved with an organization persay; I went to Walmart and bought PB&J sandwich supplies, encouraged my sisters to help me make and pack them and we drove around Fresno and passed them out! I highly encourage a buddy system if you would want to do this.

Stellar Science:

How do you serve? Can you see your impact?

~Ambassador Shola

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