Pictured above: Will Nelson talks to village boys during a service-learning trip to Fiji.

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles

A documentary entitled “Fresno to Fiji,” produced by MCJ Professor Jes Therkelsen and four MCJ students who traveled to Fiji in 2015, aired on Valley PBS, Channel 18, in August.

Through this service-learning project, students helped aid development in Fiji and engaged in the community through village events, sports, games and educational opportunities. Participants experienced local food, local accommodation and daily life as they were immersed in the local culture. Students earn credit for Community Service 101, as facilitated by Chris Fiorentino, director of the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at Fresno State. Fresno State recently surpassed more than 10 million hours of community service in 10 years. 

The MCJ students used professional video equipment to document the interaction between cultures during their time in Fiji. Upon returning to Fresno, the students edited the more than 25 hours of raw footage into a half-hour film, which will screen on Sunday. 

“This was an incredible opportunity for our students on two levels,” Therkelsen saidFirst, it allowed them to immerse themselves in a very different culture. We were living in the village and working alongside the Fijians. Second, it gave my MCJ students a unique hands-on professional opportunity to create a documentary film in an international setting.”

The four MCJ students are Mike Demmers, Michael Price, Jordan Nicholson, and Yvette Mancilla.


Mancilla, 22, graduated in May and is now working for Banjo in Las Vegas as a global media associate. 

“Many part of the trip were memorable,”she said, “but part of a service-learning trip is learning about others’ lives and understanding new cultures. The Fijian way of life was a genuinely open-hearted one, and their outright kindness is something I remember to keep with me at all times.”


More photos from the trip can be viewedhere.

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Jordan Nicholson crosses a river.The film documents an international service-learning study abroad trip to Fiji during the winter beak of 2015. Twenty Fresno State students took part, four of whom were from the Mass Communication and Journalism Department


From left, Kylie Dunn and Maddie Byers eat pineapple.