The AmeriCorps Leadership & Conservation Corpsmembers are half-way through their 10-month term! We asked one of the ACLC Corpsmembers, Claire Morrissy, to reflect on her term so far and what she is looking forward to in the next few months.
Why did you feel ACLC was a good fit for you & what brought you to MHYC?
I came across the job listing for the Mile High Youth Corps a few weeks into my job search in Denver. A month prior I had packed up my car and left home in New Jersey for Colorado with the hope of finding work that was meaningful and would be a direct application of my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. This position would combine environmental conservation with community building and hopefully introduce me to fun, open-minded young people.
What were some personal goals you set for yourself when you first started the program?
A great part about the ACLC program is that we have so many staff members who are focused on the development of the individual. With their help I made a few goals in the beginning of the term that many people are helping me remain accountable for. My first goal was to manage stress better and not let stress distract me from doing my job as well as I can. My second goal was to lead by example in order to be an approachable and respected leader. My third goal was to be kinder to myself when I make mistakes. All of these goals are works in progress, but a lot of headway is being made just by going through the daily challenges of working as an ACLC.
What has been the most unexpected part of being at MHYC?
For an agency as large and accomplished as the Mile High Youth Corps, an unexpected amount of trust is given to ACLCs and other Corpsmembers. We are responsible for representing the agency everyday while in the field, in addition to more tangible tasks like vehicle maintenance, equipment checks and Environmental Education for the Summer of Service Corpsmembers. This was a welcomed surprise for me. I really like how the ACLCs are given a large breadth of responsibilities and while there is so much support for us we are expected to rise to the occasion and get done what needs to be done.
What were some things you learned during your Energy & Water term? What was your favorite part about the term?
My spring term with Energy/Water exposed me to so many different people and aspects of life in Denver. By engaging with different people about the importance of resource conservation in their homes I gained a lot of skills that I think will serve me well as I search for a career in sustainable community development after MHYC. I’m so grateful to have that experience and I believe the impact of our energy and water audits will have long-term positive effects on the communities of our city.
What crew are you on for the summer? What are you looking forward to most?
This summer I am a member of the Trail Blazers saw crew. The leadership team has very high hopes for our crew and is already seeing them address challenges and evolve as a cohesive unit since the term began a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to connecting with my crew and establishing myself as a mentor and trusted resource for them. The process of learning chain saw techniques and protocols has been a test of my perseverance and humility, but I only hope to continue to expand my skills throughout the summer.
What is your capstone presentation about? What are the steps you are taking to complete the project?
Capstones are year-long research projects that culminate in two days of relevant service learning. The service learning must occur at a Denver-based non-profit organization that is making an impact on any local social or environmental issue. My partner, Gerardo, and I chose the urban tree canopy as the focus of our project. We were both struck by how a diverse and healthy tree population can have critical influences on the economy, human health and quality of life for community members. While Denver has a superb parks system, we have all experienced the inequities of the lack of green spaces in certain neighborhoods and we hope to work with organizations that are addressing those underserved areas. This topic will cover the ecological aspects of tree canopies while exploring the social and economic indicators of having tree-lined streets in our neighborhoods.
What are you hoping to do when your term ends in December?
The transition from the spring to summer terms has been so busy that I haven’t given much thought to where I’ll go once I complete my 10 months of service in December. Grad school has always been a long-term goal for me and my education award will be a huge help in that regard. Since graduating college, I have been really interested in sustainable community development and non-profit capacity building that integrates climate change adaption plans within city planning. Land conservation can certainly play a role in that but there are days out in the field where I picture myself being on a fire mitigation squad for Denver Mountain Parks. My goal now is to be open to opportunities that I may discover by working with the different project sponsors and to utilize the career and education counselors at MHYC as much as possible.