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My path to the Corps

By: Danielle Yaste

“Danielle,” I looked up to see Katie, a Crew Leader, looking over to me, “How did you get here?”

The question was simple enough, yet I had been wondering the same thing all week.  How, in the world, did I get here?

Two months ago I was about to graduate with my undergraduate degree, had been accepted into grad school programs, and was generally looking forward to the future.  After a series of events I decided that I needed time off, so I deferred grad school, graduated college, and felt a little lost.  I began to look for next steps—I applied for jobs, considered traveling, spent time with loved ones, read many books, and tried to find inspiration to get on a path going somewhere.  After a few weeks into my sabbatical, which is what I called January, I decided that I needed to commit to something, which had become difficult lately.  I made the choice that the next employer I talked too, I was going to commit to seeing where that application would take me.  Concurrent with this stream of thought, I decided to fill out an application for the Conservation Corps, an application that I had looked at many times and had never quite filled out, mostly out of a fear of the unknown.  So while sitting at the same coffee shopping that I am currently sitting, I applied.

And Chris, the Manager of the Northeast District, called me a few hours later.  I interviewed and accepted a position in the Conservation Corps and subsequently became a member of AmeriCorps within two short days.

Orientation started shortly later, the days were a whirlwind of information about where the year was headed, as well as, a rich history of the Conservation Corps and the AmeriCorps itself.

After Orientation, skills training started.  Preface, part of the draw for joining the Conservation Corps was because I thought it would help me build a base for my future while simultaneously allowing me to try things I had always wanted to do but never had—one of those things happened to be operating a chainsaw.  Skills training involved learning many things but my excitement about those skills shifted to fear the closer I got to actually using a chainsaw, which seems a little silly now.  It became a mental hurdle, I loved to be challenged but felt kind of like a fish out of water.  I had experience with power tools, but those experiences had become limited during my recent years in academia.  However, through the encouragement of my crew, some guidance of various staff and leaders, I overcame my fear, and it turns out, it was a lot of fun.  When the fear melted away, new relationships and skills stood in its place.  There were days when I was too tired to stay up past 8 pm and other days, as embarrassing as it is, that I had to be sent to bed because I couldn’t stop laughing and crying from exhaustion—a set of emotions that I had rarely experienced put together.  I have no doubt that new challenges, both physical and mental, will be presented over the next ten months and I am excited to face them.

Flash forward several weeks from that initial call, and I was several days into my skill training and Katie was standing before me asking “How did you get here?” And though when I rethink the past few weeks, the series of events were still a little grainy.  Despite my path into the Conservation Corps being a little unorthodox, I was given many opportunities throughout the week to be glad that I had made the decision to commit to the Conservation Corps.

Making a difference

By: Kristina Beckham

In honor of AmeriCorps week, now seems like the perfect time to reflect on my experience thus far in the program. It has been an exciting two weeks, learning all the ins and out of this experience that I will be a part of for the next ten months. My journey started out in fall of 2014 when I planned to apply for Conservation Corps. At the time though, I was still in my junior year of college at Missouri State University and didn’t want to take a break when I was so close to finishing. So I decided to wait until the upcoming year.

During my last semester with Missouri State in December of 2015 it only felt right to apply for the program again this time around. During the interview I heard about the things I would be doing and how they were going to relate directly to my degree (Wildlife Biology) and what I wanted to do. I was so relieved to receive the phone call in January offering me a position. So clearly when it came to the decision of whether or not to serve with the Corps, it was something that I didn’t have to think long about.

Personally, I already feel like I have accomplished a lot and have started to make a difference these last two weeks. I have learned so much and have been able to better my own life and the lives that I encounter. I already have helped multiple people inside my program, providing them with a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen while helping develop my own friendships outside of work.

I am very lucky to say that I am part of Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa for the 2016 season, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year will take me.

Road to the Corps

By: Rafael Contreras-Rangel

I feel that the way I joined the Conservation Corps is very different from the way most people join. I was living in Michigan about a year out of college with about a year of conservation field experience under my belt. By that point I had decided that conservation was the career I wanted to pursue, so I wanted to get a Masters degree, and the University of Minnesota seemed like the best place to get it. But before making the big move to Minnesota to get my Masters degree, I needed to find a job.

Naturally, the first thing I did to look for a job was a quick google search for conservation positions, and there it was, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa was looking for crew leaders and crew members. The process to apply seemed oddly easy to me. All that was required was to be committed to fulfill the full term and an interest in the outdoors and conservation. I remember how all the positions I found in Michigan required at least two years of experience,  so I had to “prove myself” by continuously volunteering and going to every meeting until I was finally given the chance to work with the organization.

I later found out the Conservation Corps hired young adults in order to connect them to the environment and engage them in conservation, with the hope to better prepare them for future employment. It would have been great to know an organization like Conservation Corps was out there right after graduating from college, it truly facilitates the need of field experience for recent graduates. As a crew leader, I continuously remind my crew members how grateful they should be that an organization such as Conservation Corps exists, without it I don’t think many young adults would find their passion for conservation or the experience needed for a career in conservation.

Now that I’ve been with the Corps for a little over a month, I’ve realized how the Corps is the best place for me to be. With the Corps I am able to serve not just the community by improving the quality of local parks, but also our current and future generations by trying to preserve local ecosystems so that they may also enjoy them the way we have. I also feelextremely accomplished working with the Corps since at the end of the day I can reflect on all the work we have done and know there are a multitude of crewsall over the country finishing similar projects.

Today I am thankful I took the time to do that quick google search for conservation positions in Minnesota. Without it I would never have joined the Corps and solidified my goal of devoting my career to conservation. Working alongside so many like-minded individuals and passionate project hosts has made me realize I am not alone in this journey and that it is one worth taking.