“West Hills was honestly a big turning point for me,” said popular social media influencer and West Hills College Coalinga graduate Ryan Fila. “That’s what the community college system is for, right? You’re a student trying to get from one place to a better place, and there’s a bridge and a gap – West Hills filled the gap for me.”
Fila came to Coalinga as a student-athlete, looking to play football. “I went to a 4-year college my freshman year but transferred to West Hills,” Fila said. “I needed support, and West Hills, the football team, and even the community cared about me. I was an outsider playing ball, and so many embraced me. The support is unlike any place I’ve ever been.”
“Ryan embraced what we offer here at West Hills – a homelike supportive environment,” said West Hills College Coalinga Head Football Coach Justin Berna. “We want our students to succeed and provide supports, programs, and safeguards that help students get to the next step in their athletic and educational journeys.”
At WHC Coalinga, Fila was an active member of the Associated Student Government on-campus clubs. He graduated with a 3.8 GPA with an associate degree in Business and transferred to Minot State University in North Dakota.
During his first year at Minot State, tragedy struck. “When I was a junior in college, my dad committed suicide,” Fila said. “I went home to do his eulogy, which sparked something in me and helped direct my next steps and focus.”
Fila graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Minot State University and started a non-profit called Motion Impact. “Through my non-profit, I traveled around the U.S. speaking to students at high schools and colleges about how to handle adversity,” Fila said.
“Ryan has visited our campus and chatted with our football players in the past,” said Berna. “It’s nice when alumni come back and share their success stories. Ryan has an inspirational story and encourages students to be their best, no matter the circumstances.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic arose, a halt on in-person events was placed across schools nationwide. Fila transitioned to vlogging and began documenting his life and travels. “I learned how to edit my videos, and content started flowing,” he recalled. “I love to travel, so I thought documenting my experience would be a place to start. I began to tell stories about growth and the human experience within travel stories. I try to tell unique stories that matter.”
Fila’s love for travel is evident in his video content. His adventures are well documented on his social media and YouTube channels. He has traveled the world, visiting places like New Orleans, Paris, Haiti, and most recently, Ukraine.
“We all have limits; some are set from birth, and some we place on ourselves. My goal is to live life and experience life beyond my limits,” Fila said. “I am constantly trying to create new limits for myself. It’s a chase I choose to document through the videos I create.”
Fila’s commitment to helping others through adversity is a constant theme seen in his videos. “As I traveled, I felt a strong desire to help others around me in need,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t, and I can’t help everyone. The world is just too big. I can’t change the entire world, so I started a video series entitled ‘Focus on the One.’”
Fila’s ‘Focus on the One’ series highlights the idea that although one person cannot change the world, one person can positively impact another with deliberate acts of kindness. “There is so much need in this world,” said Fila. “But slowing down to help just one family in need – there is so much value in it. Sometimes when people see that there is so much to do, so much to solve, we as humans will actually choose not to do anything at all because it’s too overwhelming to organize for just one person.”
Fila’s efforts to focus on the one began with a trip to Haiti. “I felt this thing inside of me I was supposed to put into action, this focus on the one idea,” he said. “At the time, two places had a big need: there was war and devastating human rights issues in Afghanistan and a huge earthquake that hit Haiti. I knew that Afghanistan was too much; I wasn’t ready for that. But Haiti was just outside my comfort zone to do on my own independently.”
Fila flew out to Haiti, knowing there was a tremendous need. Survivors of the earthquake had little resources, and most had lost their homes and were living outside. “I took to Instagram and asked for donations,” Fila recounted. “It’s because of my followers and their donations that I was able to travel and help rebuild a family’s home.”
Using natural resources in the area and the funds provided to him through donations, Fila and a team he assembled in Haiti were able to rebuild an entire home for one family.
“The people of Haiti reminded me humans are capable beyond our beliefs,” Fila said. “No matter how intense the adversity, no matter how corrupt the government, no matter how many times mother nature swings her bat, individuals can still choose to love one another.”
Most recently, Fila turned his focus to Ukraine in light of the conflict with Russia that began in early 2022. “When the situation erupted in Ukraine, I just knew I had to go and try to help,” he said.
Fila again took to Instagram to ask for donations to support his effort. His followers flooded him with assistance, and he set off to the Ukraine.
“Originally, I thought we could help a family with a place to stay for a month or so,” he said. “Once I got there, I found that families needed a transitional place to stay, not really a long-term place, but somewhere they could stay until they booked travel or were connected to family living in other places throughout Europe.”
Fila and his Instagram followers were able to help three families in transition stay in an Airbnb.
During his time in Ukraine, Fila made friends along the way and documented his experiences. “In Poland, I met a girl through social media who spoke Polish and she got me out to the Polish border,” he said. “Once we got there, a piano player named David was playing for families who were crossing the border.”
“Music brings a momentary place of relief,” Fila said. “I thought maybe David and I could bring that over the border into Ukraine, so I asked him if he’d be willing to travel with me and play for refugees in Lviv and he agreed.”
Fila and his piano companion traveled past the Polish border with a piano to Lviv where David played the piano for refugees at a train station and refugee camp. The two stayed in Ukraine for 3 days sleeping in their truck and at refugee camps.
“David said music is good for the soul,” Fila said. “Music feels good. Getting into the Ukraine where refugees were actually at, you know, it said to them,’ we are here with you, we support you’.”
Fila plans to continue to document his life and future travels. He finds comfort in the adventure of helping others push through difficult circumstances.
“When we get to a point of discomfort, we all have a choice,” he said. “We can turn around and run, live in it, or really push it and try to face discomfort and explore. It’s through this process I think we all experience growth. I’m thankful I can help showcase a small piece of the human existence and the growth that comes with it.”
Fila has resumed his motivational speaking tour at high schools and colleges throughout the United States. He hopes to return soon to West Hills College Coalinga to encourage the next generation of students to be their best and meet their goals.