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!
“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.
Erik Wrede’s strong connection with the Corps goes back 25 years and continues in his work today as coordinator of the DNR State Water Trails system. Professionally, he worked as a Minnesota Conservation Corps staff member from 1999-2005, first as the central district manager of the Young Adult Program in the DNR, then as executive director after the Corps emerged from the threat of complete elimination and transitioned to a nonprofit in 2003. Wrede’s current job is a mixed bag of outreach, mapping, policy, training and working with external partners on conservation and recreation projects, including the Corps.
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.
As a surprise for her birthday a few years ago, Andrea (Koemptgen) Sherwin received gifts of Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) swag, including a logo watch and sweatshirt from the early ‘90s ― when she served in the Summer Youth Program. Her wife had contacted the Corps to track down the relics, knowing the lasting impression Andrea’s three years of service had made on her life.
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.
In 2010, Julia Slocum served on a Conservation Corps Iowa crew based in her hometown of Ames, but traveled all over the state and into Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and North Dakota. Spiking most of the time, she got to see many amazing places such as Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and the Sand Hills near Valentine, Nebraska. But her favorite places were the little pockets of woodlands, hidden goat prairies and somehow-magically-preserved prairies in the midst of cornfields.
Danielle Butenhoff was one of four Home Energy Squad members during the program’s inaugural year in 2009. Working through Neighborhood Energy Connection, she visited homes where she installed basic energy-saving measures ― such as weather stripping, efficient lighting, water heater insulation blankets, programmable thermostats and water-saving showerheads and aerators ― and checked the attic insulation levels and the age and efficiency of the mechanical systems. Because the program was new, she got to work with program staff to develop the program’s practices.
Matt Kearn’s time served in the young adult program from 2006-2008, based in Duluth, drastically shaped his career and life. During his Corps service, he spent a lot of time constructing and maintaining trails, conducting wildlife surveys, removing invasive species, restoring areas in Grand Portage and firefighting. Matt especially loved the challenge and reward of spike trips: working on and exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior and the Superior Hiking Trail, and spending time in the BWCA restoring a CCC cabin. He also formed important relationships, which he described as “some of the greatest people I have been lucky enough to know,” many of which remain his closest friends.
During his four years of service in the Corps, Sean Wickhem did everything from documenting scenic easement parcels by canoe to leading youth in community service, training people how to camp to installing solar panels. From 2009-2012, he spent three years in the Youth Outdoors program and one year as a single placement with Rural Renewable Energy Alliance as a solar air heat specialist. During his years with YO, Wickhem found challenge and inspiration working with youth and watching them grow and mature, many from backgrounds very different from his own. “It was inspiring to see the youth come together as a team and develop into active participants in their communities,” he said.