Students gain a global insight on philanthropy


istanbul:Rotaract members Joseph Ross (left), Christie Pierce and Elyes Jlassi (center) from Tunisia, at the conference. :courtesy photo

Lauren Greenwood

Two Sacramento State students traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, to represent Sacramento State and the United States at an international leadership conference that focused on community service and developing student leaders.

Christie Pierce, freshman communication studies major and Rotaract president, and senior business major Joseph Ross attended the international Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and conference held earlier this month.

Pierce and Ross received an e-mail invitation from the Istanbul Rotary Club for the leadership awards. The theme of the conference was “How to Be a CEO of Your Life.” The conference aimed to develop the participants’ leadership skills and unite clubs from around the world, said Steve Forseth, Rotaract adviser and University Union custodial services manager.

“Right now America has such a negative global image and by showing up and participating in this conference, we demonstrated that we aren’t “ignorant’ Americans,” Pierce said. “Joseph and I speak other languages and we traveled to participate in this cultural exchange and promote peace.”

Pierce said he was proud to have represented the U.S., even though Sac State Rotaract is just a year old, while the other clubs at the conference were at least a decade old.

“On the first day of the conference, we all gathered in the main room. We came in a little bit late, but everybody noticed. They started clapping and said, “The Americans are here!'” Pierce said. “We found out later that we were the only club from North and South America.”

Twenty-five clubs from Bulgaria, Indonesia, Poland, Italy, Pakistan, England, the Czech Republic, Austria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Denmark, Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria and Egypt attended.

The leadership awards committee covered all the costs of the conference, except for airfare. Pierce and Ross paid for their own tickets before seeking out Rotary sponsors to help cover airfare.

Pierce said they received donations from the Rotary clubs of Visalia, Rancho Cordova, Carmel Valley, Sacramento, Monterey Institute and Interact Club of Rancho Cordova.

Forseth said Sac State Rotaract would benefit from sending two of its student leaders to the conference.

“Pierce and Ross had the opportunity to confer with international Rotaract clubs and foster lifelong friendships,” Forseth said. “The connections Pierce and Ross make might turn into something big. International projects have arisen out of these kinds of conferences.”

Pierce and Ross said they are looking into doing international community service projects after meeting and networking with clubs from other countries. They said they want to incorporate some of the ideas from the conference into their projects at Sac State.

“We learned about structuring and planning our events more formally. Some of the clubs like Pakistan and Turkey had cool ideas for service like providing fun opportunities for underprivileged children like taking them to the zoo or a show or a play for sick children in hospitals,” Ross said.

At the conference, all of the clubs gave presentations about the service work they do in their local communities and activities they’re planning.

“The conference was a great way to understand how other countries see “philanthropy.’ We networked with different clubs and picked up good ideas that we want to bring back to our club,” Ross said.

Pierce and Ross said many of the clubs did community service work with children. A popular project among the clubs was a toy drive, which was also held throughout the conference. All of the participants from the clubs were required to bring three toys from their home country.

Speakers Riza Kadilar, a country representative from the Global Real Estate Institute, and Marcus J. Tschann, a leader in education management, spoke about leadership values.

“The speakers talked about how to maintain composure and integrity when things aren’t going perfectly and how choices show who a person is far more than actual abilities,” Pierce said. “The speakers also engaged us in team-building activities.”

The campus administration commended Pierce and Ross’ efforts to reach out to the international community.

“I congratulate Christie Pierce and Joseph Ross for their accomplishments with Rotaract. Sacramento State’s student clubs have a long history of leadership and service, and it is wonderful to see our students being recognized for their contributions to the community,” said Lori Varlotta, vice president for student affairs, in an e-mail to The State Hornet.

Pierce and Ross have been providing community service work on campus and to the Sacramento region. They have been heavily involved with Rotaract during its successful first year, Forseth said.

“Christie and Joseph have been really, really proactive in putting forth activities and projects for the Rotaract Club so far and I can’t wait to see what else they do,” Forseth said.

Pierce and Ross coordinated two major projects for Rotaract. Ross headed the “U-Can” food drive, which collected goods for the River City Food Bank in spring 2009. Rotaract brought in more than 8,000 pounds of nonperishable goods last spring, Ross said.

Pierce and Ross are now working on this semester’s “U-Can” food drive and a benefit concert for an autism center.

Pierce and Ross took their experiences with Sac State Rotaract and shared them with the international community during the leadership conference.

“It was a learning experience about ourselves, about other clubs, and other cultures. We celebrated our differences with understanding and peace,” Ross said.

Lauren Greenwood can be reached at [email protected].