Observations from the Office

by | Mar 23, 2018 | From Vika's Desk

I started working here in the beginning of February, and while I knew most of the staff already (from LEAD when I went as a student), I had no idea what the working environment would be like. A few months in, the facets of the office are what still make me smile on my commute. Because it’s such a vibrant atmosphere, I thought I’d share the top five things I’ve learned here so far.

1. There is a reason to celebrate every day.

Peter is our resident holiday guru. Whether it’s National Sweet Potato Day or Penguin Awareness Day, we celebrate them with due reverence and treat every holiday with equal respect. For National Popcorn Day, the staff went on an excursion to Horrocks to buy popcorn, and for National Pancake Day we made a pancake breakfast. However, the obscure holidays aren’t the only things we celebrate around here. A generous gift from a donor or a confirmation of a new student signing up gets the entire office excited. As anyone who’s worked for SSI will understand, celebrating the small, everyday miracles are what helps carry this office through the thick and thin.

2. We take our jokes seriously.

Call it part of the light-hearted office culture. We have a contest for jokes and winner takes on the mantle of being the best jester. Practical jokes are a requirement, along with a good sense of humor. If someone complains about the Valentine’s Day decorations being overdone, he just might walk into his office one day and discover all the pink and red streamers and tinsel have been relocated there. Tim’s departure has deprived us of his golden wit—among other things. Yet juxtaposed with our dedication to humor, we take time to focus on what is important: the relationships with our supporters, and the lives we hope to impact for the Kingdom.

3. We do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Instilled by our former C.O.O. Tim Van Loh, our mantra is Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” We strive to go above and beyond the call of duty and to not only meet expectations but also raise them. An example of our pioneering workplace innovation: when I needed a small paper clip, not only did Aimee find one for me on her desk, but she also created a nifty paper airplane, attached the paper clip to it, and sent it flying across the room. In-house aviation aside, it’s the love for the kids we hope to meet at camp and our Onsites that propels us to stay past the clock, tirelessly checking and double-checking, preparing and organizing, planning and praying.

4. We prioritize our work environment.

Socks are the office uniform. Call us avant-garde in our productivity practices, but I’ve read of studies in some obscure Scandinavian countries that have proven employees work better in a comfortable setting. Do we believe them? We’re not sure, but any excuse to take off snow boots during the Michigan winter is a good one. And if you come and visit the office, and you’re lucky, you may catch glimpse of the mismatched socks Joslyn wears. Besides the happiness of our feet, we try to keep up each other’s spirits amid the stress that comes with running a program like LEAD, and not a day goes by when a prayer isn’t offered up for the success of this ministry and our students.

5. It’s a year-round tree.

I don’t think there are any plans to take down the Christmas tree they’ve had up since Thanksgiving. We redecorated it for every major holiday. It was covered in red, silver, and pink decorations for the Valentine’s Day we celebrated for two weeks. Currently, it’s green for St Patrick’s Day, and when summer arrives, we’ll likely arrange beach balls around its base. We are currently accepting suggestions for tree decorations. Email me at vika@ssionline.org if you think of a good idea. I think the tree is an apt description of the evergreen vision SSI pursues every day.


James says, “You have to be a little bit crazy to work here. But don’t worry, we’ll train you.” I say that is an incredibly accurate assessment of our office—from the intense work it takes to put on a summer camp, to the quirkiness of our office customs, to the mission we strive towards: To raise up a generation of new, godly leaders who will impact the world for the good of those around them.

Vika Nuñez, Programs Assistant for SSI, was the first child of an alumnus to attend the program, and SSI has not been able to get rid of her ever since. A former captain of the Lansing Homeschoolers Quizbusters team, she loves to make connections with people and put a smile on their faces.

Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position of the Student Statesmanship Institute. SSI is a non-profit educational organization and provides this blog as a platform for those who have been involved in our program to engage and share thoughts related to current events, issues of the day, and personal experiences, but does not necessarily endorse the content therein.