May 5, 2014Vol. 44, Issue 5

Hope for Humanity

Fidel Ilustre Gives New Meaning to Volunteerism

Although Fidel Ilustre ended up at Chico State nearly by chance, his time here has been characterized by a keen dedication to serving others.

When Ilustre was finishing high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do or where he wanted to go. “But I wanted to get away, so I went on the CSU Mentor website and scrolled,” recounts the health science major. “The first three schools that came up, I applied to.” Fortunately for the University, Chico State was one of those three. 

Ilustre moved to Chico, and with his first volunteer experience, his path was set—community service was his thing.

It all started, he says, when he got a job as Summer O staff. Part of his job was to give incoming freshmen an introduction to clubs and organizations. “It was really hard for me to talk about all these organizations, not having joined any of them,” he says. “After that, I made an effort to get involved.” 

One of the first things he did was join a CAVE alternative spring break trip to Catalina Island. After a couple days of invasive species abatement, he was officially hooked. He soon found himself planning the next year’s service trip to Lafayette, Louisiana. “We were able to take 19 volunteers to build homes for Habitat for Humanity,” he says. “That was fun because it was a huge budget, $20,000—well, to me, that’s huge. It was probably the most challenging thing I’ve done.” 

Ilustre found that he loved the behind-the-scenes work—planning, scheduling, and budgeting. He found a staff position as the director of operations for CAVE, gaining valuable professional experience in nonprofit administration.

He also participated in a Jesus Center food drive, talked to Greek organizations and residence halls about safer sex and alcohol abuse, worked as a nursing station assistant in the Student Health Center, and taught local elementary school classes about nutrition and physical activity. He got involved in Leaders for a Lifetime, a youth development program for Hmong youth. For his many service efforts, Ilustre received this year’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Outstanding Student Award.

The more involved Ilustre became, the more he realized that his service experiences were revealing a passion for health communication. He will be going to grad school next year at CSU, Northridge, studying health care administration. He hopes this direction will feed his love of service and play to the behind-the-scenes strengths he has honed at CAVE.

“I wanted to find some way to serve the community and still do administrative work,” he says. “Because I love the leadership, the supervising people. I love being the boss. But at the same time, I like serving people.”

But his end goal, he adds, is to become a college professor.

For new freshmen staring at their own list of CSU campuses, Ilustre leaves this bit of parting advice: “Just be open. You don’t know what can lead to what. Take the opportunities that are given to you.”

The opportunities that Ilustre took have made him a stronger and more patient person, he says. And they have given him more hope for humanity. “You go into a volunteer organization and everyone is working really hard, and most of them don’t get paid. It is really inspirational to walk into an environment like that,” he says. 

“We hear a lot about negative things going on in the world, so it’s really nice to see people like this exist. 

“There are a lot of good people in this world. A lot of them are here in Chico.” 

—Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications

Senior Sendoff

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From the Editor

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