This month I started an eleven month term as an AmeriCorps member for the California Regional Office of American Rivers, and what a month it has been! I have helped with field work, traveled to different communities, and made allies with a multitude of passionate and knowledgeable people.
I am serving at American Rivers through the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP), whose focus is on watershed stewardship in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I grew up in Lake Tahoe, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and now, serving with American Rivers I finally have the chance to give back to the mountains that raised me. It is hard to believe that within two weeks I finished my laboratory technician job in Nevada, moved to California and started my new position as an AmeriCorps member in Nevada City. My first work week has been nothing short of exiting, and I am already grateful for this opportunity through American Rivers and SNAP!
It is important to understand the history and ideals of AmeriCorps in order to appreciate how great it is that American Rivers is supporting this program. In 1990, the independent government agency called the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) was formed, in order to manage three main programs: the Senior corps, Americorps and Learn and Serve America. Based off these programs’ missions, CNCS created six major focus areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families. AmeriCorps, specifically, is a national network of hundreds of programs across the nation. Each program can be categorized within either the National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC), Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), or AmeriCorps State and National. These three categories encompass programs that fall into the six focus areas, but in general, the NCCC and VISTA are managed nationally while AmeriCorps State and National provide funds to local and national organizations that manage AmeriCorps programs.
My position with American Rivers is possible because AmeriCorps State and National provides funding to a non-profit called the Sierra Nevada Alliance, which manages the SNAP program. SNAP started in 2009 and places 28 members in organizations across the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The focus of the program is environmental stewardship in the Sierras and places emphasis on three main categories: watershed restoration/monitoring, watershed education, and volunteer recruitment/support. This AmeriCorps program not only improves the environment, but it creates jobs and invaluable opportunities for people entering the workforce. The individuals who have entered these intensive service positions are exceptionally grateful to be exposed to differing environmental careers and mentored by people who are not only successful environmental professionals, but are also genuinely concerned for the environment.
I know that within just my first week of working with American Rivers, my skill set and knowledge has already expanded. On my third day of service, I participated in a meadow monitoring day that is part of a larger effort to track the changes of greenhouse gas sequestration in meadows. We extracted soil samples to be tested for carbon, density and greenhouse gases.
It has always been an exciting prospect for me to be able to contribute to the preservation of natural resources in the Sierra and this program will be an incredible launching pad to a career as an environmental professional.