Why I Joined the Corps

ATV in field with helmet and work gloves on seat

By Madeline Peterson, Anoka Field Crew Leader / AmeriCorps Member


I first learned about Conservation Corps through a career fair at my college. I was studying Wildlife Biology, and I wanted to find something where I could do field work. Joining a field crew seemed like a great way to get hands-on experience with natural resource management, so I made a tentative plan to join the Corps after I graduated.

Grassy field with trees in distance viewed from over the hood of an ATV.
View of Bunker Hills Regional Park from a UTV.

[Image Description] Two lines created by ATV wheels create a path through a grassy prairie leading to a group of trees in the distance. The hood of the ATV is visible in the foreground.

Last fall, I was biking in Bunker Hills Regional Park when I spotted an orange warning sign on the trail reading “PRESCRIBED BURN.” Having gotten a taste of prescribed fire as an intern with Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in the previous summer, I was excited to learn there was a burn happening in my own community.

ATV in field with helmet and work gloves on seat
One ongoing project this year has been improving the Bunker Hills Dog Park, in October I removed debris and planted native prairie seeds inside the park.

[Image Description] Bobcat ATV with sticks in the back and a helmet on the passenger seat in a dusty field with trees in the background.

I went further down the path, following the smell of smoke and eventually coming to the burn. It was black as the paved trail around it, and the air around it was cold. No fire that I could see anywhere. I missed the actual fire, but was hoping to find a few people mopping up the burned area that I could talk to.

I saw someone walking along the burn with a pulaski over her shoulder, and caught up to her on my bike. That day, I had a chance meeting with Kayla, one of my classmates from college! I was excited to learn about what she did after graduating, and she described her experience as a field crew member and then leader for the Anoka crew.

The more I heard about her experience with Conservation Corps, the more excited I got! I would get to do more prescribed burns and I would get chainsaw training? It sounded like just what I was looking for, and on the Anoka crew I would be working in my own community, improving parks that my neighbors and I used all the time.

Today, I’m so glad that I ran into Kayla and listened to her suggestion that I apply to Conservation Corps.  My intention was to get some natural resources experience while doing a year-long service term, but I never could have expected how much this year would change me.

I’ve learned so much, met awesome people, and overcome challenges I never thought I was capable of.

Believe me, I wouldn’t trade this year for anything.



Explore open AmeriCorps positions on crews like Madeline’s and learn what a year in the Corps could look like for you!

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