My Corps Story

corpsmember using rake

As the 2017 service year wraps up, we asked our members to reflect on the year and share their fondest memory or greatest accomplishment with the Corps. Take a look at some of their answers:

“Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa challenged me to step outside my comfort zone, take on the role of a leader and make sacrifices for the sake of a bigger goal. I can’t think of any other position that would have made me realize what I’m capable of and brought out the best in me.”

-Alex Cournega

“Going to Florida for 30 days as part of a disaster response team. I got to help a lot of people by clearing hazard trees/snags and debris with chainsaws. I also got to put blue FEMA tarps on roofs with shingle damage. Despite the intense heat and humidity, I acclimated to the climate and workload very quickly and made strong bonds with the crew members I worked with.”

-Grant Muehlhauser

Group of Corpsmembers

“Going on disaster response down to Florida. It was a great experience and certainly not one I was expecting. We worked with so many different people and learned so much about them as well. We did a lot of chainsawing down there, a skill that I’ve grown a lot in, and cleared a very large amount of brush. This was my fondest memory because it was the most meaningful work that I have done.”

-Carson Vandiver

“One thing that has truly resonated with me is the people here at the Anoka Conservation District truly care about their work and when a student worker comes in they feel obligated to teach them as much as possible about what they do and how to do it. For that I have been truly grateful.”

-Logan Berg

corpsmember using rake

“I have learned a lot from this experience, but my biggest take away was the creation of a dream. I was inspired by Dan’s business, Shoreview Natives, and hope to someday open my own tree nursery. It may not happen tomorrow, but it is something I would be passionate about! I’ve talked about this to my family and friends and hope that someday I can fulfill my plans!”

-LeAnna Bender

“Earlier this fall I helped organize and run a partner event with MN Parks & Trails and Health Partners at William O’ Brien State Park. This event was meant to introduce families to State Parks and had a number of activities like hiking, fire building and fishing. While helping out at the fishing pier, I met a young boy who expressed that he had never fished before but was very excited to try. After showing him how to use the fishing rod he made his firts cast and within seconds had a fish on his line. After coaching him through reeling it in, he pulled up a 12′ bass. The look of sheer joy and excitement on his face will definitely stick with me for years to come.”

-Brad Chatfield

corpmembers testing water clarity from boat

“One of my favorite experiences so far this summer has been helping put on the Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area’s kayak trip down the Redwood and Cottonwood Rivers. big learning experience came through water sampling. Once a month I go out with a member of RCRCA on lake sampling runs. We go to 10 lakes throughout the area and take secchi disk readings, as well as dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH readings.”

-John Botsford

“Before the Conservation Corps I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to go into law enforcement, environmental science or forestry. During my time with the Corps I got to learn a lot about the different conservation/environmental fields through project hosts. Not only did I learn what field is best to go into, but I also learned what employers are looking for in a job application and how to professionally talk with higher ups. The Corps was a great experience overall and I would highly recommend it to people who love the outdoors.”

-Sophia Holmes

“I have been fortunate to be exposed to a variety of practices through working with a range of conservation professionals ranging from foresters to engineers.  My term of service has been an incredibly educational experience and has prompted me to have an increased understanding and curiosity for environmental conservation.”

-Declan Devine

forested riverway

“I have been learning different ways to improve water quality, such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and buffer strips. Using different kinds of equipment, I have learning how to monitor streams and lake levels, as well as what the data is being used for. Issues related to water have been important to me, especially since the Augsburg River Semester. This could help decide what kind of career I should go into.”

-Mike Madson

It’s difficult to encapsulate how great this year has been in a single memory or accomplishment. The real highlight for me has been all the people I’ve met and the storied I’ve hear working across the Iron Range at different mines. Getting to know the people, their memories, their concerns and their hopes has been a challenge and a reward. Preserving their history while exploring old mine buildings everyday was more than I can put in a paragraph. Each day I uncovered new artifacts, new stories and explored a new place in the mine and it was an ideal term because everyday was an adventure into the past and the amazing history and people of the Iron Range. Every place we go as Corps members, we take a little of that place, that comraderie and that experience with us. I think I can speak for the others when I say we will keep all of these things with us for the rest of our lives.”

-Ian Dunshee

“One of the most critical incidents for me in my service has occurred more than once. Many times while doing shore land restoration projects and rain garden installs, the landowner comes out to chat and to ask questions when we first get to the site. To me, this is one of the most important parts because having that face-to-face conversation and laying out your plan for them is something that cannot be done over the phone.

The sense of accomplishment and pride when the project is done is a feeling that cannot be described, and to see the look on the landowner’s face when it’s all said and done is very satisfying. It is even more fulfilling when the landowner didn’t understand and may have had their doubts beforehand.”

-Logan Ridel

Group sitting on front steps of house

“Through this job, I’ve passed fields of Canada thistle, and logged harmful wild parsnip on almost every road I’ve passed. I too often feel the discouraging, overwhelming weight of insignificance that pulling one clump of leafy spurge will do. And I often wonder why we’re still fighting.

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

But, then nature lets me see through the tiniest window. I get to peek into the world of a single caterpillar readying its body for a great transformation on a plant that is as intertwined to that species as fish are to the river. The natural world has so much beauty in it, and people rarely get a glimpse. But I would encourage anyone to take a step back from the forest—from the wild worldview of giant habitat destruction and massive projects that decimate ecosystems—and look at the trees.”

-Shelby Roberts

“The threat of invasive species to this environment is great. I am grateful to be a part of the search for invasive species to help keep this diversity.  This opportunity has taught me a lot about the native and invasive species in the streams and woods surrounding and how they can impact the structure of an ecosystem.”

-Sara Rother

“This past fall I spent several weeks doing watershed education workshops and fall paddling events. On the last day, I was absolutely exhausted and had lost my voice. An area volunteer asked to sit in on my session. After all of the fourth graders left he came up to me and told me that he hadn’t watched someone so clearly articulate a lesson while maintaining excitement. ‘They all knew what you were talking about; it’s truly a gift.’ Knowing that all the planning, and driving, and being goofy with fourth graders actually made a difference made it all worth it.

-Danielle Yaste

“I hadn’t worked with high school students before this experience but it was rewarding to know that I was able to teach them a thing or two about nature, even if I needed a little help myself. Since this experience, I have been immersed in numerous situations when I have taught and been taught, gained valuable skills, and grown as a professional and as a person; this was exactly the experience I was hoping to gain from my Conservation Corps service.”

-Dan Wolski

group of young adults smiling and laughing at a demonstration