“Don’t be ashamed to learn from bugs or sand or anything.”
My Americorps journey really began back when I was in Middle School. I volunteered with my father at the Incline Village General Improvement District (IVGID) Public Works Department to help out with their citizen science water quality program. The volunteers would meet up, get the scientific equipment, and receive instructions before departing into the field. I would typically sample along Third Creek or Incline Creek in Incline Village, Nevada as we wrote down observations, Dissolved Oxygen levels, Turbidity measurements, and Temperature readings among other parameters. It was a great experience and gave me my foundation in the sciences.
I originally applied to become an intern with the IVGID Public Works Department’s Waste Not Program in the spring of 2014. I had already been picked up to become a Seasonal Park Aide Ranger with Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space however, so this application was foiled. I was still able to interview with the Waste Not Program staff and ultimately decided to apply for an Americorps position with the Public Works Department as my host site beginning in the fall. I got it, pretty quick and simple. I was really excited that a position at Incline Village Public Works had worked out for me.
A part of serving in Americorps besides volunteering at a host site included several group service projects throughout the year. Our first service project involved cleaning up litter and large trash items along the Truckee River in Reno, NV along with other Nevada Volunteers organizations. Our second project took place during Halloween in which we set up and ran an interactive, kid-friendly haunted house as a part of the Incline Village Trail of Treats and Terror community event.
Our third service project celebrated a Parasol Tahoe Americorps legacy located at the Incline Village Elementary School. A few years prior, a previous Americorps team built outdoor classrooms at the local public elementary school’s property. These trails had gotten tattered overtime so our team decided to rebuild those classrooms and include a variety of lesson plans to encourage teachers to continue using and maintaining them for future students.
We established new trails that connected the rebuilt classrooms. We also presented the new outdoor based lessons to the students. Finally, we helped the kids paint a mural that was based on a book that we read to them during our project. Teachers and their students can now easily utilize the outdoor classrooms in order to learn about all the STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math) subjects and how they interact with the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Find our project video here:
One of my most favorite responsibilities for my host site at Waste Not is our affiliation with the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association. I am required to take regular water quality samples and measurements at the beaches and creeks in Incline Village, NV on IVGID property. That is, I put on some waders and venture out among the rocks and sand to collect the required items from the lake.
My other primary duties include hazardous and electronic waste acceptance and management from community members as well as environmental education and promotion of sustainability initiatives. This position can sometimes feel like it is tailor made for me but it can also present some challenges with time management and agency capacity. Overall, the Americorps experience has been both fun and extremely educational.
I do not believe that I could have gained the networking and additional training skills from any other position. This is due to the support that Americorps members and their programs receive from the local, regional and even national levels. Incline Village may loose some Americorps members in its’ community in the following year; however the impact that this program had over its 15 year service will make an everlasting legacy to motivate its citizens to be the best they can be to each other and the environment in the great USA.