By: Kellie Lager
When I joined Conservation Corps as an AmeriCorps member, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I was 24, living with my parents and had a vague sense that I wanted my job to “mean” something. Looking back, I was laughingly naïve and idealistic.
What the Corps truly taught me was how to work. And I do mean work in all senses of the word. The Corps taught me the value of getting my hands dirty, most days whether I liked it or not. It taught me how to work with people I loved and people I hated (and that sometimes that can be the same person). It taught me to consider that my way might not be the only right way, that “giving back” to the community doesn’t mean anything if you don’t listen to the community members’ needs and wants, that every tough break forces you to learn new skills.
My career since the Corps hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. I’ve struggled, I’ve switched jobs, I’ve still wondered what I was doing with my life. But the reason I work for the Corps, the reason I watched staff job postings like a hawk, is because I knew the Corps was someplace that valued what I had grown to want for my life and career: authenticity, a willingness to admit you don’t have all the answers and a desire to make a difference. And, above it all, hard work.