Meet our 2015 bloggers

We are SO excited to have a new group of corps members blogging about their experience this year! This year’s group includes people from field crews and our Youth Outdoors program and we look forward to hearing about their unique experiences from the field. Watch this space for new posts once or twice a week from now until the end of November.

Gaby Gerken
Crew: Metro Roving
Hometown: Rochester, Minn.
College: University of Minnesota Duluth

Person or experience that has most influenced her life: During the spring semester of freshman year I took a Global Issues class with Professor Denny Falk, and it definitely changed the course of my life. Denny was passionate about the topics and put me on the path toward international relations and sustainability. He is the reason that I became an active volunteer and started paying attention to the news, which ultimately fueled my desire to travel and learn about other cultures. 

Her story: As you’ve already seen, I’m from Rochester, Minn., but I mainly grew up at my grandma’s tree farm 30 minutes north of town. I trekked through the forest daily, picked wild blackberries for breakfast and chased sheep and chickens into their homes at night. Five years ago I decided to go to school in Duluth because of the cold weather and the fact that it was almost four hours away from home. I double majored in criminology and international studies, but after a few years decided that geography and sustainability was what I really wanted to be studying. It was too late to change my mind, so I powered through and directed my classes towards policy and urban planning. I’ve been considering getting my masters in city planning for a few years, but want to be 113% positive that it is where I belong before I make a commitment.

After graduation I was feeling a bit lost, so I went backpacking in Europe for two and half months. Travel now consumes my thoughts and I spend almost every second daydreaming about the places I have yet to see. Upon my return my fiancée and I moved to St. Paul, where I worked at a co-op for six months before joining the Corps. My weekdays are now spent lost in the woods while my weekends are spent visiting local coffee shops and finding new ways to make my life more sustainable and low-waste. Life has been treating me well lately and I’m excited to see how the next year turns out!


Melissa Gearman
Crew: Central Roving (aka Water Trails!)
Hometown: Alexandria, Minn.
College: College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn.

Experience that most influenced her life: The experience that had the most influence on my life happened on a small CSA (community supported agriculture) farm near a tiny southwestern Minnesota town. The place was called Earthrise Farm and it was run by two sisters who also happened to be sisters of the Catholic variety. For two summers I weeded, watered, harvested, saw the birth of goats, chased a miniature horse or two when they escaped from the pen and got chased by an angry goose, all while meeting amazing people. The time I spent there showed me hard work can be fun and that doing something with your own two hands gives you such a feeling of accomplishment and happiness.

Her story: I am a person of many interests. Growing up I participated in theater, band and sports. I loved books so much my mom had to limit me to three at bedtime. As a family, we went camping almost every weekend during the summer. I was interested in and wanted to experience everything. That has not changed as I’ve gotten older. After graduating college I taught science at a secondary school in Kenya, worked on a tiny CSA in a small Minnesota town, moved to Washington to be a home energy conservation educator and worked a desk job in a healthcare agency.

There is one thing that has always interested me more than any other: nature. I want to learn about the trees, flowers and grasses. I want to know how and why rivers flow the way they do. I want to know how turtles survive the winter and why nuthatches hop upside down along a tree. I want to know it all but above all I want to understand the problems humans have caused to the natural world and do my part in fixing some of the damage. 


Brett Stolpestad
Crew: Youth Outdoors 2
Hometown: Edina, Minn.
College: University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Person who most influence his life: The person that has most influenced my life is Professor Karen J. Warren at the University of Minnesota. In 2014, I took a class called Environmental Ethics, in which we learned about the different foundations and principles behind several ethical positions regarding the environment, including ecofeminism. This class fundamentally changed the way I think about the environment and issues surrounding it. 

His story: I grew up in Edina less than a block from Arden Park by the Minnehaha Creek. Like many “cake eaters,” I spent most of my afternoons at the park playing hockey in the winter. Hockey was the main driving force in my life all the way through high school, when I finally reached my goal of playing on the Edina varsity hockey team. 

After one semester at Gustavus Adolfus College, I transferred to the University of Minnesota. I took a variety of courses in the first two years at the U of M, including several courses in philosophy. Philosophy became my primary interest both academically and personally, and I eventually declared a major in philosophy in my junior year. Philosophy was extremely challenging and interesting, but I still wanted to find something that would lead me to a career after graduation. I had always loved writing, art and photography, so I decided to pursue a second degree in journalism, hoping that it would lead to a meaningful career.

I graduated from the U of M in 2014 and decided to travel to Europe for two months, on my own. I had many wonderful experiences in Europe. I was in Scotland during the vote on the referendum to decide Scottish independence, and I hiked from France to Italy around Mont Blanc. I visited incredible natural places including the ice caves near Salzburg, Saxon Switzerland National Park in Southern Germany and the Dolomites in Northern Italy. These experiences, along with what I had previously learned about the environment and the ethical concerns surrounding it, is what led me to the Conservation Corps. I left college with a small understanding of the environment and a deep longing to learn more. I hope that the Corps can teach me more about the environment as a whole, how different cultures interact with the environment and the ethical duty that each individual has as a citizen of the natural world. 



Carlos Dabu
Crew: YO1
Hometown: Apple Valley, Minn.
College: Saint John’s University

Person who has most influenced his life: David Fremo, former assistant director of Campus Ministry at College of Saint Benedict’s. Helped me focus using my skill set and interests to reach my potential early in college. Fostered leadership and confidence within me.

His story: As a legal adult going into my first year of college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life. I was interested in youth ministry and music so I decided to pursue that as a double major at Saint John’s. Right away I knew that it was wrong for me.

My sophomore year I was pulled into a club known as the Sustainability Alliance, filled with inspired individuals who wanted to make a positive impact through grassroots movements. I became an advocate for humanitarian and environmental issues, stemming from the institution’s Benedictine value of stewardship of all of God’s creation.

From there, I did all I could to get involved with nonprofits and environmental organizations like ONE and the Sierra Club. I found that I enjoyed doing hands-on work with people, being able to work and communicate with others. I gravitated to the Corps as soon as I found out about it. The rest is a story waiting to unfold.


Anna Machowicz
Crew:  Shakopee
Hometown: Fenton, Mich. / St. Johns, Mich.
College:  Michigan State University

People who have most influenced her life: A little cliche, but I’d have to say my parents.

Her story: I’d lived in Michigan my entire life. I grew up in the beautiful state parks there; my dad was a Michigan DNR employee since before I was born. After graduating from MSU with animal science and zoology degrees in 2012, I changed my mind about my career. I decided natural resources was the way to go (like father, like daughter). I entered my first corps experience in the summer of 2014 with the Wisconsin Conservation Corps. I was hooked. There was no way I could go back to Michigan and sit at a desk. In fact, there was no way I could go back to Michigan. I decided quickly to make a move, and circumstances provided me with a home in Minnesota. I moved here in October 2014, joining Conservation Corps to get more experience that might advance a career in the field I’m passionate about. After my service term I plan to continue west and see what else the world has to offer me! Happy trails!