Our alumni have gone to work all over! Click through to explore where the skills and experience gained from a Corps term can send you!
“The most incredible thing was realizing the impact we could have after 48 hours or less with a group of individuals. Seeing children and parents excited to share their new skills and get excited about the outdoors is incredible.”
Janessa Palmer was part of the summer ‘I Can Camp!’ program. As an I Can Camp! instructor, she traveled to over 16 Minnesota State Parks throughout the summer. From Scenic, Itasca and Tettegouche State Parks, all the way down to Whitewater and Forestville/Mystery Cave State Parks, Janessa taught camping basics such as tent set-up and how to build a fire. One of her favorite parts of being an instructor was making educational programming for participants. She studied and developed programs on owls, trees of the north woods and more.
One of her most memorable experiences was doing a bit of stargazing with some campers and teaching them how to identify Jupiter and Mars in the night sky. After pointing this out, one of the mothers said, “I’ve now seen three planets in one day. How does it get better from here?”
Currently, Janessa is finishing up her degree at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This fall she is very excited to join the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s Naturalist training program. “I’m hoping to get some experience and move on to a Master’s in Environmental Science. I know that I wouldn’t have even thought of this if it hadn’t been for Conservation Corps.”
Sixteen acres of rain gardens maintained, 784 miles of trails built and improved, 211,489 plants, trees and shrubs planted. These are just some of the many accomplishments Conservation Corps alumni contribute to each year. But what about those things that aren’t so easy to measure? A first fish caught by an inner-city youth, countless memories made with crew members, one life saved.
2015 Youth Outdoors alumnus Vincent Welder joined the Corps after a near-death experience. “This incident caused me to be very depressed and drop out of college,” said Vincent. “If it wasn’t for Conservation Corps, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. For the first time in years, my life had purpose. I was surrounded by good people who cared about me.”
Vincent’s tragic experience motivated him to give back. He committed to a year of service with the Corps, building boardwalks, improving rain gardens, removing invasive species and leading young people. “I was very happy teaching youth about the environment and providing life lessons when I could. The leadership position really helped me grow as a person,” he said.
Knowing that he was helping people truly made all the difference for Vincent. Now he is back in school, studying Environmental Science at University of Minnesota -- Duluth UMD. “A lot of what this organization does for others, including me, is intangible,” said Vincent. “The person I was before my term, and the person I am now could not be more different. The Conservation Corps changed my life in the best way possible.”
Kellie’s 2011 Corps experience didn’t start off the way she hoped. While playing basketball during orientation (in Camp Friendship’s carpeted gym, she would emphasize) Kellie tore her ACL and ended up spending the first 6 months of her term at a desk job with the MN Department of Natural Resources. Instead of working outdoors, she was relearning how to walk as she did data entry, website development and wrote news releases. As she healed, she traveled to 23 state parks to take pictures of facilities for a reservation database.
In July, Kellie got to join the rest of her Three Rivers Crew. She remembers this time as a “blur of hard work” including invasive species management, streambank restoration, oak wilt management and prescribed burns. The hours were often long and strenuous on her still-healing knee. A few of the burns they managed lasted well into the night!
Despite the challenges, Conservation Corps helped bring Kellie to where she is today. Her term with the Corps inspired her to go back to school for Wildlife Biology. She loves animals of all kinds. Some of her favorite Corps memories included chasing snakes and identifying different species of frogs. Her first job out of college was back at Three Rivers working with their wildlife department. The skills she learned at Conservation Corps helped land her in that position and, eventually, back into a job with us.
As Recruitment Coordinator, Kellie helps place around 300 AmeriCorps members each year, creating relationships with other organizations, visiting schools, and posting on up to 500 job boards throughout the country. “Conservation Corps made me realize how important it is to me to work for an organization with a mission that I believe in. It makes the tough work easier.”
“Felling trees, harvesting seedlings, planting. Everything involved trees,” says 2010-2011 alumni Evan Hill. As part of the Three Rivers Crew, Evan’s work allowed him to be a part of every stage of landscaping. A project that stands out was a 2011 stream bank restoration project. Evan’s crew had ownership over the program from beginning to end. “It really felt like our project,” says Evan.
After serving with the Corps, Evan moved to Missouri to get his Master’s Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. Having the opportunity to be a Conservation Corps crew leader provided Evan with useful leadership experience during his Master’s program. He appreciates the practical experience he gained, fellow crew members he met and fun he had with Conservation Corps.
Today, Evan works as a Wildlife Programs Coordinator with the Missouri Department of Conservation. There he monitors the Great Missouri Birding Trail, tracking habitat and changes in the environment. He also designed the website for the trail, including a digital map. Check out his work, here!
The Corps was a great two years for Rachel Sicheneder who spent 2012 in Windom as a crew member and 2013 in Marshall as a crew leader. Through multiple different projects including prescribed burns, buckthorn removal, garlic mustard mitigation and seed collecting, Rachel truly enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and meet members of the conservation community.
After her time as a crew leader, Rachel headed to the Eastern United States to complete a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. The 142 days of hiking gave her time to think over what she had learned in the Corps and where she wanted to take her life in the future. Ultimately, she decided to commit herself to a different kind of public service; and applied to an Officer Accession program of the Coast Guard. In her interview panel the three Officers told her that her time in the Corps was one of the aspects that made her stand out among the other applicants and should not be overestimated. In May of 2015 she graduated Officer Candidate School as an Ensign.
Currently, Rachel is a Junior Lieutenant stationed on the Coast Guard tall ship the EAGLE where she teaches cadets from the Coast Guard Academy, and acts as a diplomatic representative of the military in domestic and foreign ports. She credits her time spent in the Corps as one of the best personal and professional decisions she could have made and is excited to see where her military career will take her next.
“Everything started with CCM,” says Emma Bixler, 2011 Summer Youth Corps alumni. As crew leaders with Summer Youth Corps, Emma and Sachiko Flores never worked together directly while in SYC. However, they had similar friends and experiences which eventually brought them to where they are now, spending almost every moment together planning their startup, CorpsTHAT.
CorpsTHAT provides organizational support for the inclusion of Deaf and Hard of Hearing participants in outdoor programs. Both Emma and Sachiko are inspired to connect the deaf and hearing world through outdoor experience by providing more support and resources within the conservation field. Their hope is to inspire more ASL inclusion crews to thrive in Corps throughout the country and expand opportunities and options for deaf people in the outdoor world. This could mean anything from hosting environmental learning trips with students and interpreters to starting a school! For now, they are focusing on offering trainings and recruitment services to existing programs like the Corps.
While serving with Conservation Corps in 2011, Sachiko and Emma noticed a spark within themselves. “Without CCM, we wouldn’t truly know who we are and what we can do,” said Sachiko. They describe their experience with the Corps as ‘magic’ and want to spread that magic as far as they can.
“When I think back on my experience it feels like it went by so fast, but we did so much!” said Justin Hanson, 2000 crew leader for the then ‘Windom Crew’. His crew was lucky to be given a wide range of project opportunities such as; bridge repair, wetland restoration, buckthorn removal, nesting inventories and (his favorite) fish studies.
Justin praises the Corps as a unique opportunity to participate in experiences that wouldn’t have come along in any other career, including the opportunity to build close relationships with his crew. The teamwork, leadership experience and technical skills he learned led him to a full time job with the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) where he has built a 16-year career!
Justin is the District Manager for SWCD and Administrator for the Cedar River Watershed District. His work feels familiar to the Corps as he leads a crew doing similar water quality and habitat work. “It is on a different scale, but we are still working to get projects on the ground,” Justin says. He has also continued to work with Conservation Corps. Since 2008, field crews and Conservation Apprentices have worked on projects with the Mower SWCD. Justin uses his Corps experience to provide meaningful and fun projects for Corps members while helping them make connections to help further their career.
Justin values his Corps experience and does what he can to support and share the good work we continue to do every day.
Wade Hammer started his natural resources career as a corps member in Faribault. Never straying too far from this path, Wade now works as an environmental consultant with NRG/ERM. He graduated from St. Olaf College in 1996 with a degree in biology. Fueled by his love of biology and interest in natural resources, Wade started looking for a job where he could gain hands-on experience. When he found the Corps he was grateful for the chance to gain field experience right out of college ― with the opportunity to network, build his resume and work outdoors.
Wade also remembers how challenging the experience was. His crew started in the fall and worked through a cold and snowy winter. He estimates they spent 80-90% of their time doing buckthorn removal. Luckily, the work was also rewarding and helped support his career trajectory. The Corps taught Wade endurance and fortitude to withstand the elements. He believes the heavy, manual labor outdoors helped boost his resume when he applied for jobs. He was also able to use his stipend to help fund graduate school supplies.
Wade’s work involves helping clients understand and gain environmental permits for projects. He still spends time working outdoors doing wetland delineation work, braving through mosquito-thick swamps. Conservation Corps provided Wade with his first real life opportunity in a natural resources career. After 19 years he is still hard at work in that field.
As a Northwest District crew leader in 2011, Michael Anderson found himself on trails, in streams, at wildfires and in forests. He remembers constructing over a mile of the North Country Trail, standing hip deep in cold streams while constructing streambank erosion control measures and driving along the Paul Bunyon and Heartland trails clearing brush and maintaining trail. His best memories included breaking ice on the streams while working on erosion control, enduring thick swarms of deer flies near Itasca State Park, felling encroaching trees for days straight and driving through the woods on the way to a fire.
Michael says the experience taught him to be a leader, to navigate problems and make decisions that impact fellow crew members and the environment. He loved seeing first-hand the beauty of Minnesota and learning new skills. And he has carried those skills into his current work as the owner and guide of Broken Paddle Guiding Company, which offers guided kayak, stand-up paddleboard and fat bike trips in the backwaters of the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota. “My knowledge of plant ID, geology, ecology and hydrology vastly increased during my time in Conservation Corps,” he said. “Now I get to share that information with people every day as I guide them through our natural world.”
Jen Kader’s year in Conservation Corps – as an individual placement specialist with DNR Parks and Trails in 2013 – was a perfect fit for someone who thrives on variety and brought diverse experience with environmental issues and community organizing to the position. As the special events and community outreach specialist, she led paddling trips for the I Can Paddle! program, helped put on a celebration of the State Water Trail system’s 50th anniversary, published an online history of the Water Trails system, and served as the Adopt-a-River program assistant.
Patty Mueller’s long-standing interest in environmental action and conservation drew her to join Minnesota’s Youth Conservation Corps in 1979 and 1980, and to become the Summer Youth Corps camp director in 1982. She was headed toward a career in environmental education and credits the Corps with helping solidify that direction, for both her work and life goals. “The Corps certainly added to my interest in wildlife and environmental action,” said Mueller.
During a budding career in natural resources that is slowly taking her around the country, Jessa Davis spent two years with Conservation Corps Minnesota in 2009-10, serving first as a crew member, then as a crew leader. Originally from upstate New York, Davis enjoyed the Midwest parks and prairies where she spent most of her time in the Corps.
Anthony Indelicato first served in the Corps when the AmeriCorps field crew term ran from fall to spring, right through the middle of a brisk Minnesota winter. He served as a crew leader at Three Rivers Park District (then Hennepin Parks) in 2000-01, then as an operations leader on staff for three years in the Central District. His tenure overlapped a pivotal time for the organization as the Corps transitioned from the DNR to a nonprofit in 2003.
In only its second year, the Faces of Tomorrow seasonal program has already launched several crew members and leaders into positions in the natural resources field! Meet them here and watch for more success stories to come.
Ashly Fairchild, 2014 crew leader
Becky Haug, 2014 crew leader
Erin Cole, 2014 crew member
Richard Rosario, 2014 crew member
Lily Morris’s experience in the Conservation Corps led her to an adventure of a lifetime, working part of the year in Antarctica. She works as a steward at McMurdo Research Facility, where 200 to 1,200 National Science Foundation employees come from all over the world to work every year. They conduct weather balloon research, core sampling, waste removal and diesel mechanics.
The Conservation Corps Apprentice Academy is a young program but showing great promise for participants such as Colin Snowberg, who served with the Anoka Conservation District in 2011 and now works as a project scientist for an environmental consulting firm in the Twin Cities. During his apprenticeship, he focused on water quality management in the county, including streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater. His work involved collecting water samples, gauging water levels, conducting biomonitoring and constructing rain gardens as well as managing data and mapping with GIS software.
Twenty years ago, Paul Schmidt joined the Corps as a crew leader with the then-MCC summer program, returning the following two summers as assistant site director and then site director of the program. He worked from a base at St. John’s Landing in St. Croix State Park, which is still home to the Summer Youth Corps. From there, Schmidt worked for a couple years with the Northwest Youth Corps in Oregon, then a long stretch with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in New England.
Mary Hammes’ path to her current job with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency traversed three Corps programs: she served on a seasonal Superior National Forest crew in 2009, a Central District water trails crew in 2010 and as a Central District field specialist in 2011. During her three years in the Corps, she accomplished a wide variety of work – from maintaining trails to clearing river snags, and from suppressing fires to hiring and training crew members – in locations all over Minnesota.
Ryan Lisson’s first connection to the Corps was through Youth Outdoors (YO) when it was a pilot program in 2008. He served the following two years as a YO leader and field crew member, working out of the Central District in Saint Paul. YO AmeriCorps members serve in unique positions within the year-long field crew program, working eight months of the term as youth leaders afterschool and on Saturdays during the fall and spring and full-time during an eight week summer session. During the remaining hours they serve in a more traditional crew. Ryan worked with crews of urban high school youth members to conduct natural resource management work, education activities and job skills training. In the field, he worked throughout the metro area on habitat improvement projects, prescribed burns, native prairie plantings, oak stand regeneration projects and, of course, invasive species removal.