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Meet the 2014 bloggers

Name: Sawyer Denning

Crew: North Woods

Hometown: Cudahy, WI

Person or experience that made me into the person I am today: My father and mother had the most impact on who I am today. My father, Mark, brought me and my siblings’ attention towards American Indian culture, spirituality and values. My mother, Renee, helped us to have a critical and analytical attitude towards the world and all the things in it.

My story: I decided to work for Conservation Corps because I enjoy the style of work. In the past I have enjoyed working as a part of crew, working outdoors and doing manual labor. My previous job was in an apple orchard and before that I was as a deckhand on a sailboat that sailed around the eastern coast of North America and the Carribean. The job description mentioned long hours and hard work, so I applied right away.


Name: Jackie Boat

Individual Placement: Solar Heat Outreach Specialist (RREAL)

Hometown: Pella, Iowa

College attended: Central College

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: I have always been a pretty resourceful person. As a kid I loved to get creative and make something new and useful out of what could otherwise be garbage. I learned from my parents to appreciate what I have and to avoid waste. When I became a freshman in high school, I took an environmental science class that really resonated with me. Before that I never really knew the impact human beings had on the Earth or the reasons to be conservative with resources. My eyes were opened to the excesses inherent in the way we live our daily lives and new ways to promote a better world. For me, it was a very natural shift in consciousness that didn’t take much effort at all. That, however, was not true for many of my peers. I realized that I had to be active and vocal about environmental issues, because sometimes it takes a lot for people to listen or care. That year, an activist was born.

My story: As a self-proclaimed activist, I continued my environmental education through college in hopes of landing a career in the conservation field. I wanted to apply my philosophy to reality, however that was easier said than done. You can know everything there is to know about the environment, but if you don’t have a way to apply that practically it doesn’t do any good. For example, I took part in projects on campus to prevent waste and raise awareness. Some of them were successful, others just sort of flopped. The difference was in what support networks I had. One voice does not a cause make.

After college I moved to Portland, Oregon where I knew there was a big atmosphere for environmental consciousness. I thought that maybe I could find a place to start with an organization that had momentum behind it. I was not prepared for the lack of actual opportunities at the entry level or the lack of interest in what I believed to be a good resume. Too many people were vying for the same positions as me, and I definitely did not have the five years experience required for many jobs that barely paid a decent salary. I then became a front desk clerk at a hotel resort.

After a year of disappointing prospects and working an unrewarding job, I was told about Conservation Corps. They had opportunities back in my home state of Iowa that sounded a lot more like what I wanted to do and that were much more accessible for someone of my experience. When I was offered the Solar Heat Outreach Specialist position, I gladly said goodbye to the West Coast that didn’t have space for me and hello to a familiar place that was happy to have me back. I didn’t have to travel nearly as far as I had expected for a great opportunity!

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Name: Angela Mohar

Crew: Three Rivers 2

Hometown: New Brighton, Minnesota

College attended: University of St. Thomas

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: It’s difficult to really pinpoint one person or experience, but I would say that my whole family has had a hand in shaping me into the person I have become. My dad spent hours teaching me various things from how to skate to derivatives and integrals. His patience and never ending support have meant the world to me. My mom showed me how to deal with all of the tough stuff that life throws my way, and my brother has always inspired me to never give up no matter how hard it is to do so. It really was a team effort to make me who I am today.

My story: Like many college graduates, I struggled to find work that was meaningful and interesting to me, and that I was qualified for. After countless applications and multiple interviews but always being the second choice, I needed a new plan. I attended a career fair at the University of Minnesota and found out more information about Conservation Corps. It seemed like an incredible opportunity to learn new skills that could push me in potentially a new direction, so I applied and am glad I did. After this term, I hope to either continue with the Corps in some capacity or see what else is out there.


Name: Nicholas Cox

Crew: St. Paul Roving

Hometown: Osceola, Wisconsin

College: University of Minnesota (Duluth, then Twin Cities)

Why I decided to do another year in the Corps : The simple answer to this questions is, because it’s an awesome job. I find myself thinking this quite often, and occasionally even saying it out loud as I did while tromping through the snow this morning. I’m pretty lucky to be able to spend my days outdoors in beautiful and diverse areas doing meaningful and physically active work with like-minded folks, and a livable stipend to boot!Aside from that, one term as a field crew member in the Corps has helped me develop so much as a member of a hard and smart working team, as a lover of the outdoors, and as a young professional getting ready to begin a career.  Another term will surely hone my skills and abilities even further, while giving me the opportunity to become a leader and to share the Corp experience with a fresh new batch of field crew members.

My story: As a young adult I’ve set out on a quest to investigate my own and society’s relationship with the earth and nature. The first subject this led me to was food; believe it or not, all of our food comes from the earth and not from supermarkets or chocolate factories. For the past few seasons I’ve worked on organic vegetable farms; in 2011 at a relatively large CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Wisconsin, 2012 managing the harvesting, processing, and marketing of vegetables at the U of M Student Organic Farm, and 2013 as a farm apprentice helping establish a new urban farm in South Minneapolis. I’ve concluded that the way in which we extract sustenance from the earth is perhaps the most important interaction we have with nature, and there is much work to be done in order to repair and sustain a healthy interaction.

For 2014, I’m excited to return for a second year with the Corps as a crew leader on a field crew and to continue avoiding any resemblance of an office job for as long as possible. The work we will be doing and the areas in which we will be working to represent some of the most visible opportunities that people have to interact with and develop a relationship with nature. I’m honored to be able to do work that will repair and strengthen a healthy presence among nature and the outdoors, and I look forward to continuing to build an understanding of the natural world and fully expect to be consistently humbled by its wonder.


Name: Anthony Lowndes

Crew: Rochester Cedars

Hometown: Papillion, NE

College attended: University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL)

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: Growing up in a city didn’t always make ‘wild’ places all that accessible. Fortunately, my family had the wonderful opportunity to visit many places, starting with the local camping spot and not stopping. These trips usually started with everyone excited and dry, moved to forgetting most of the essentials like bread and tent stakes, and ending with us all wet and mildly upset at one another. On each of these excursions throughout my life, I have learned much about the people I spend that time with and even more about myself.          

The outdoors is not a always a place for me to escape people but rather share that time with them and exclusively them. I have found that in our ever increasingly more technological world it can be hard to really get to know people. My family has had a great impact on me and although some of the time we have spent camping together has not gone so smoothly, the place we have visited and stars we have gazed together will always stay with me.

My story: After graduating high school and moving off to college, I took my time figuring out what it was that I wanted to spend my life doing. Then I thought about what I have always spent my life doing, leading me to the Fisheries and Wildlife/Environmental studies major. I spent last summer in the Pacific Northwest completing an internship with the Student Conservation Corps. During that time I surveyed streams and spent virtually all my time in the ‘great outdoors’ and confirmed the fact that this is where I need to be. So I found another service opportunity, again, with AmeriCorps and made the move to Rochester. I applied to many places in the state but was glad when I got the news I had gotten a job near my brother and would get to spend lots of time with my new nephew.

Name: Bryan Goldner

Crew: Tower

College: College of William and Mary

Person or experience that made me into the person I am today: Life. Someone once told me you only know what you’ve been told. This holds true for me even today. My parents taught me to enjoy people and their creations. My house was always filled with transients and exchange students, teachers, scientists and artists that my parents would take in as family. Everyone has a story to tell and something you can learn from, there were none I found to be uninteresting or without unique appeal. My siblings taught me about how to live life and how not to make the mistakes they did although, often, curiosity got the better of me. I was taught that family is more important than all the money and fame that this world has to offer and I have yet to be convinced otherwise. Lastly, as the great Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Over the years I was allowed, even encouraged to seek education outside of the school system, which is a privilege many are not as fortunate to receive. People, experiences, places, are full of knowledge if you are simply willing to look. From a blade of grass to the Sistine Chapel nothing in this world lacks in complexity or something more to be learned. “Never stop learning” – My mom. 

My story: My background in biology and my love for the outdoors led me to make a quick decision to join the Corps. I was born in Panama City, Panama and moved to the United States at the ripe old age of 10. Virginia Beach is an outdoors town and i grew up fishing, surfing, skateboarding, and participating in general outdoor debauchery. I graduated high school and soon after began attending the College of William and Mary for biology. Later, I became bored and complacent within the school system and place that I was in. I had the opportunity to take a year off before finishing my schooling and began to apply for jobs. My search took me far and wide through the spectrum of jobs for undergraduates which, as you can imagine, is not very far or wide. I found a job in which I could be outside, help the community, chop down trees, and drive ATVs. Sign me up. I saw the Corps as a chance to get some experience, do something real, and be a productive human being. An opportunity to contribute in some way to the environment which has been good to me all these years. So here I am, in Northeast Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes and sub-zero temperatures. 

Name: Maureen Hanlon

Crew: Ottertail

Hometown: Wethersfield, CT

College: SUNY Albany

Person or experience that made me into the person I am today: You know, many people, many experiences. I spent a summer after high school knocking on doors for an environmental group, talking my neighbors’ ears off about the dangers of global warming during the hottest summer on record. I thought I wanted to be a lobbyist by the time I was through…a lobbyist for justice! Then I found out that lobbyists don’t wear sneakers and tee shirts, and that usually politicians won’t take pity on you with a glass of lemonade and a sympathetic ear for your cause. Still, I got a taste for the issues I’m passionate about, and then I got into this sort of thing, which suits me better. 

My story: Sometimes I call home, and my mother says something like, “Where are you now? Montana? Missouri?” And before you think that my mother is one of those New Englanders who doesn’t know any states east of New York, let me say: this is a completely reasonable mix-up. I’ll say, “No, Mom, Minnesota. The Conservation Corps still.” And then we’ll move on to the Sunday Patriots game, and could she remind me about that catfish recipe again?

My mother, and other family and friends, have all patiently kept track of me since I left home almost ten years ago on a series of fantastic but short-lived conservation adventures. There was the time I chased bison for a few months outside Yellowstone National Park, and the time I was a tour guide on Alcatraz, and the time I lived in the off-the-grid farming community in Colorado, which my mom was genuinely concerned might be a cult, until the next time I called and she said, “Where are you now? Colorado? Kansas?” And I dutifully updated her on my change of venue.

So I hadn’t yet had a chance to see Minnesota, which thus far has proved to be as beautiful as expected. I love Fergus Falls, which sits at the intersection of three major ecosystems. I’m hoping to learn a few new trees and wild edibles while I’m here, and bond with the  lovely group of five that is my crew. And I’m here for an unprecedented ten months, which is the longest I’ve spent anywhere besides university.

And this means that maybe one of these days, when I call my mom for our weekly chat, she’ll say, “Hi Bean! How’s Minnesota?”