Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Jake Bailey
Business Manger
Sierra Service Project

Transgender Day of Remembrance is always a hard day for me. It is a time when we remember all of the Trans people whose lives were lost in acts of Anti-Transgender violence. People who were killed for no other reason than that they were true to themselves; and that act caused someone to feel deceived or offended to decide that their lives should be cut short. The majority of Trans people who are killed are trans women of color, who face both Transphobia and Racism. And unfortunately the number keeps growing each year, with at least 25 deaths in the US so far in 2017.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important is because our lives matter! Trans people are human beings. Their names and stories could be forgotten if we don’t celebrate their lives after they’re gone. Trans remembrance is also important because these murders are hate crimes. Yet they are usually not prioritized by police and often go unsolved. In remembering those we’ve lost, we remind ourselves these things still happen. Lives will be lost, and things won’t change unless people are aware and take action. As a Trans man, it is also a reminder that if the wrong people find out that I am trans and get angry enough about it, that I too could be killed. Any of us could. But Transgender Day of Remembrance is most importantly about community and being there for each other through the good and the bad. Being a Trans man is a huge part of who I am, and it is important in my relationships with friends and in shaping my values.

So what are some things that we can do this year to make our communities a safer place for Trans people?

  1. Don’t out anyone. Coming out is a personal decision, and can be a risky one. Don’t put someone else’s life on the line by trying to share their story. If you need an example to educate someone, don’t use their name or identifying information.
  2. Make sure that the spaces you inhabit (work, school, home, church, etc.) are safe places for Trans people. That could mean having gender neutral bathrooms accessible, or specifically letting Trans people know that they are welcome.
  3. Stand up for Trans people. If you hear someone being harassed or bullied because of their gender, check to see if they are okay and stay with them. Tell the perpetrators to stop, and call for help if needed.
  4. Educate your family and friends about the Trans community. The more that people know about someone, the less likely they are to fear or feel threatened by them. We are all human and have more similarities than we have differences.
  5. Fight against discriminatory legislation. Whether it is a bathroom bill, employment discrimination protections, ID change laws, or transgender people being banned from the military, pay attention to what laws are being proposed and let your representatives know how you feel about them.
  6. Support Trans visibility in politics and the media. Whether it is a Trans person running for office or a Trans actor on your favorite TV show, representation matters. For transgender children and youth, seeing people like them means that they have role models to aspire towards. And for cisgender people it helps humanize Trans people and can change opinions.
  7. Don’t support politicians or businesses that are hostile to Trans people. With enough pressure from the general population, Anti-LGBT business will go out of business and politicians will get voted out. Make this a non-negotiable criteria.

Editor’s Note: Jake has been the Business Manager at SSP since 2013 and served as a youth volunteer and Staff-In-Training. Jake graduated in 2011 from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies with distinction. He was also the first person to graduate from Sonoma State with a Queer Studies minor. Refresh your knowledge of LGBTQ+ language.

Jordan Karnes #mySSPstory

Jordan Karnes #mySSPstory

Jordan Karnes
Sonoma State University, Junior
Food Service Coordinator, Tsaile 2017
Point Pleasant United Methodist Church


Being a part of the SSP community has been one of the most influential parts of my life. Without SSP I would not have developed into the leader I am today. Because of the time and energy I’ve dedicated to this program, I have thrived as a leader in recent years. I’ve grown so much thanks to the people I’ve met, and the experiences we’ve had together.


These factors, although I didn’t know it at the time, were fundamental to shaping me into the person I am today.


Since my first week as a youth in Fort Hall in 2011, every SSP week I’ve experienced has uniquely impacted me. As a youth, SSP mesmerized me. I loved being a part of a work team and getting to know youth from other places with hearts for service like me. The staff members empowered me and I always looked up to them. These factors, although I didn’t know it at the time, were fundamental to shaping me into the person I am today.

In 2014 in Tsaile I met Chloe Parker, and we started to talk about life, staff, faith, and everything in between. I looked up to Chloe so much because she is strong, confident, and the type of leader I want to be one day. To this day, I don’t think Chloe knows that she’s the main reason I applied for staff. I can only hope that I am able to impact youth in a similar way.


I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to have this organization in my life.


I’ve been able to translate my leadership skills from SSP into so many areas of my life. I’m the community service chair of my sorority, and I lead a weekly Bible study.

This year, I’ve gotten the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Academy. I will continue to develop my leadership alongside so many amazing SSPeople by my side. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to have this organization in my life. It’s an honor to be a part of this community that values and empowers young leaders like me and so many others!


Editor’s note: Jordan most recently served on staff in Tsaile, AZ as a Food Service Coordinator. She is a Leadership Academy fellow and her story is the seventh part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Jordan and apply for 2018 summer staff!

Twelve SSP Experiences

Twelve SSP Experiences

by Liam Smith

Youth Board Member from Elk Grove United Methodist Church



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.

I Did Not Know

I Did Not Know

by Juliette Guilloteau

Food Service Coordinator in Spokane, WA


When I got hired by Sierra Service Project as a Food Service Coordinator, I only had an extremely vague idea of what was ahead of me. I only knew that I was looking forward to traveling to the United States for the first time and that I could not wait to meet my team and have the best summer of my life with them.

Goodness gracious.

Spokane Juliette Pizza

Juliette, left, with a Spokane volunteer making an SSP pizza.

I did not know that I would feel overwhelmed by being the only international staffer and one of the staffers that could say “I have never had any experience with SSP at all before, like, never ever.” I did not know I would miss my family as much as I did. I did not know I would sometimes have to go to bed at midnight and wake up the next morning at 5am. I did not know that it meant no cell service, no direct access to the Internet and that we would have to drive for an hour until we came across the next city. I had no idea that my air mattress would deflate every night. I had no idea that we would have to drive for two days until we even reached our site in Spokane, Washington and that our car would break down in a town like Dunsmuir, Oregon. I did not know that we would have to make eighteen pizzas every Friday and eat excessive amounts of celery every week because we ordered too many bags by mistake. I did not know about the issues with counselors, campers or my team that we would have to deal with throughout the weeks. I did not know about prep week or clean-up week. I did not know about weekly food inventories or the importance of getting receipts for purchases. I did not know I would sometimes need to just stay ten minutes in the bathroom on my own because I had to take a deep breath before going back to work. I did not know any of that. But there is more.

I did not know that working for SSP would change my life.

At the beginning of the first day of Training, all I wanted to do was to go back home to France; I had cried all morning and I was exhausted due to the nine-hour time difference. But by the end of the day, meeting everyone, my team, the office staff, and spending the day hugging people, all I knew was that I never wanted to leave.

Throughout the summer, I grew as a person, as a team member and as a member of the SSP community. I was able to teach children how to do things that I loved doing, and in return they taught me a lot about life and how the world works. I got to inspire and be inspired by people I had never met before and will probably never see again. I tried food I had never had before, and I learned cooking skills that will forever be useful. I met people with their very own stories, people who were willing to share their feelings and thoughts with me because we had learned to trust each other. I met young people who have hearts so full of love they could explode. One wise youth told us that, “SSP is not a place you go to every summer, it’s a mindset”. I learned so much from such a short sentence. If you carry an open heart, if you open your arms to people and if you show unconditional love to anyone you meet, you do not need much more in life. That is the SSP mindset.

I met young people who have hearts so full of love they could explode.

In the span of two months, I felt like I became my truest self. I have never been happier than when I had to make those eighteen pizzas and would see campers come in to help, singing High School Musical. I have never been happier than when I was holding hands with my team and praying before going to bed every night. I have never been happier than when we played Four Square with youth. I have never been happier than every time we sang “Build Me Up Buttercup” together.

SSP made me realize that I am capable, loved and that I have the right to be part of a loving, caring and supportive community no matter where I am. SSP showed me that I could do anything I wanted and made me feel at peace with the world. SSP gave me friends for life, friends I never thought I would end up having such an intense connection with, friends I am going to miss every day until I get to see them again. SSP gave me a purpose and the best summer of my life.


Editor’s Note: Registration for the 2017 summer will be on a first-come, first-served basis starting October 24. Email Veronica Russell with your questions! Applications for the the 2017 summer staff will be made available in early winter.

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