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. “It feels good to do what you love,” she said of her experience. “I felt supported and I loved going into work!” She found it especially gratifying and inspiring to see that Minnesota community members are still leading the charge to address water resource issues, much as they did in the 1960s when everyday people pushed for the protections and programs we now take for granted.
Prior to the Corps, Kader served a VISTA term as assistant sustainability coordinator at a small liberal arts college, worked as an “apple intern” for an organic farm/orchard and spent two years as a community organizer for a neighborhood group in south Minneapolis. She said the Corps provided her with new experience – in events and education – that helped open doors to environment-related positions. Following her Corps service term, she worked two years for Great River Greening as volunteer and outreach manager before landing her current job as a program manager for Freshwater Society. Kader now coordinates educational opportunities and works with community groups to address water resource issues, helping them hone their vision and build capacity. “I was really fortunate to have been able to go through Conservation Corps,” she said. “The experience gave me the foot back into the environmental field that I needed in order to pursue my passion professionally, and I still see direct ties between what I did then and what I continue to do every day.”