LEAP Member Great Stories of Service
Throughout service, LEAP members report quarterly on their community impact and record "great stories". Below are a few recent great stories shared by LEAP members during the 2019-2020 service year.
What could your great story of service be?
Colton McCracken, Green Mountain Farm to School
One of the most heartwarming experiences that I encountered during my service was during the first few months at Coventry Village School. I was relatively new to the kids and we had just started lessons in the classroom. I was teaching a Farm-to-School Workshop about the importance of Seeds and how they grow in our garden, and it happened to be one of the first workshops I conducted this year. Although there were over twenty 3rd Grade students participating, the kids were very engaged and well behaved. The workshop was barely over half an hour and in that time, we learned everything from “what a seed needs for growing” to the “life cycle of plants”. After all the learning, activities and questions, it seemed like our time together had gone by so fast. They thanked me for the workshop and I went on with my day. Fast forward to Thanksgiving break, I am finishing a different workshop at Coventry School when I ran into the Teacher of the 3rd grade class I had taught a workshop for. In the middle of our conversation she pulled out a packet of letters written to me by her students! They wrote about all the topics we covered in our lesson and said how happy they were to have me as their Farm-to-School Coordinator. This was only the first of many instances where I realized how much our service is appreciated and valued by the communities we serve in!
Charles Hill, NorthWoods Stewardship Center
The year was 2013, I was fresh out of high school. I had applied for a job that I heard about from my guidance counselor, which involved working outside. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get outside during the summer and make some money. Little did I know, that summer would change my life. The job was working at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut, where I spent my summer working in the woods; I fell in love with the work. This opportunity presented me with a passion for the outdoors that I never realized I had. After spending the summer doing work that I later found out was all in the name of conservation, I knew I had found my calling. My crew and I may have been working at a National Wildlife Refuge, but we were contracted by a tiny nonprofit in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont: NorthWoods Stewardship Center. This small nonprofit has become such a big part of my life.
I loved what I did in the summer of 2013 so I applied again the next year, and every year after that until 2017. I was then asked by NorthWoods if I'd be interested in coming up to Vermont and serving with the LEAP AmeriCorps program at the NorthWoods campus. Without hesitation, I said yes. I served a quarter time slot as AmeriCorps member, completing projects in the woods of the NEK, where my love for the outdoors (and now the NEK) grew deeper. After my AmeriCorps summer term, I was asked to work a fall position with NorthWoods, which I did without hesitation.
I have since returned to NorthWoods, a place I call my second home, for the past 2 years as a crew leader. Last summer (2019), I was approached by my supervisor Dusty May and asked if I would be interested in serving a full year term as the Conservation Corps AmeriCorps, again I accepted without hesitation. After serving my first term back in 2017, I knew what drawbacks I'd be facing, specifically with living allowances. However, at this point, I can’t care less about how much I am putting in the bank; it’s the experiences I bring home with me that I care about. I get to serve not only the public by building a hiking trail, or a disabled person by building a fully handicap accessible trail, but I serve myself by being surrounded by a beautiful environment and wonderful people. I love what I do and I love where I do it, and who I do it with.
To me, conservation is not just about the preservation and care of natural resources, but the preservation of wellbeing. People hike in the woods because it is a peaceful and beautiful space that one can go and forget about the stresses of daily life and to get away from the technology that is surrounding us. If I can help just one person connect to nature whether it’s a crew member who is just looking for a summer job, or an after schooler who only goes outside because their parents make them, then I would feel like I helped pass on the spirit of conservation. I am in the position to pass the torch and light the fire that grows into a passion just like my crew leader did back in 2013. I couldn’t ask to be in a better place to serve, serve my environment, community, and self.
Kelsie Jardine, NVU-Lyndon Upward Bound
One experience that stands out from this period of my AmeriCorps service occurred during the first week of the summer program. I noticed a student in my geometry class had turned their camera off after getting a question wrong in class and didn’t participate for the remainder of the lesson. After the class I reached out to the student individually to check in and offer some extra assistance if they needed it. The student then disclosed to me about their battles with social anxiety and how quickly they shut down after getting something wrong. Through this interaction we were able to work out strategies for the student to use if they became anxious or started to shut down during a class. The student went on to have a very successful summer in my class and let me know they were grateful for the support they received from me and felt more confident about advocating for themselves going into the school year.