If you have been around TERC over the last 13 years, you have probably seen new faces quite often. Whether in the third-floor office space, down in the Science Center, or out at local events, several of the staff on the Education and Outreach Team change every year. These transient, but integral, team members are serving at TERC through AmeriCorps. They are part of the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership, and some past members were part of the Parasol AmeriCorps Program. These individuals come from all over the country to volunteer at TERC for an 11-month term of service. Their primary focus is on environmental outreach and watershed education throughout the Tahoe region.
AmeriCorps is an excellent way to gain experience in a field, develop professional skills, and network. Above all, it is a year of civil service where members contribute to helping the surrounding community. Since AmeriCorps is a great launchpad for a career, we checked in with former members of the TERC team to see where they have been since serving and what their year of service meant to them.
Many past AmeriCorps members continued in the environmental field. Leanne Burns, who served at TERC for two terms in 2010 and 2011, went on to earn an M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Biology. She now lives in Brooklyn, NY, and works as an independent biological consultant, specializing in bat biology. Leanne is currently completing a comprehensive survey of all bat species on U.S. Army property in West Point, NY. “My experience at TERC helped me to mature professionally,” Leanne says, “giving me public speaking experience and allowing me to interact with diverse audiences.”
Rachel Spellman, a 2009 SNAP member, also made her way to New York. After TERC, she received a Master’s in Urban Sustainability. She now works for the City University of New York as the Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator for their Central Office. Rachel says that her time at TERC influenced her future education and career decisions. “My undergraduate studies were mostly focused on the humanities side, but the knowledge I gained at TERC both inspired and enabled me to enter a graduate program in the sciences.”
Martin Frye continued in the environmental field after AmeriCorps. A 2011 Parasol member, he is now a Field Technician and Crew Lead at the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project, a non-profit that works to locate, protect, and enhance seabird populations and their habitat in Maui Nui, Hawaii. Between TERC and his current job, Martin traveled the country, doing field ecology work in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Washington. Now settled in Hawaii, Martin continues to be involved with AmeriCorps by hosting members at his organization. “Since I’m now part of a small team that hosts AmeriCorps members, I am always conscious of trying to provide a work environment like I found at TERC, where there is a valuable mission, plenty of room for expansion with new ideas and talents, and a staff of fundamentally good people acting as positive role models in their jobs.”
Heather Foslund served at TERC in 2010. She is putting her M.S. in Environmental Management to good use working in Helena, Montana, for the Department of Environmental Quality. As part of the State Superfund Unit, she manages three sites where she oversees cleanup efforts and advises on the use of effective cleanup technologies. In her free time, she started a sustainable tea company, serves as secretary for Soroptimist International of Helena, and volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Heather can draw a direct parallel to her current work and the skills she developed while at TERC. “I think my work at TERC influenced me to be more diplomatic when working with the public,” she says, “TERC also helped me be a better presenter to the public; I recently had a public meeting and I got complimented by my Supervisors for explaining the complicated topic to the public effectively. I think TERC really helped with that.”
Marnie Luxford still lives in Incline Village, but her path has taken her into a new field. She earned a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology at the University of Nevada Reno and now works as an elementary school speech pathologist. Marnie credits her year in AmeriCorps (2007-2008) with developing both lifelong friendships and career skills. “My time at TERC was challenging in the sense that I was often pushed out of my comfort zone, but this wide breadth of experience contributed to both personal and professional growth I still carry with me today.”
In addition to these members, several TERC AmeriCorps alumni are working throughout the Tahoe region. Emily Frey (2015-2016) joined the League to Save Lake Tahoe as their Citizen Science Program Coordinator, Denise Tran (2016-2017) is the Events and Volunteer Coordinator at Sierra State Parks Foundation, Gabe Griffiths (2016-2017) is with California State Parks, and Kylee Bigelow (2012-2014) is the Executive Director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association.
And of course, TERC’s very own Program Coordinator Alison Toy (2012) and Researcher Katie Senft (2009) were once AmeriCorps members here! These stories are only a handful of the members that have served at TERC over the years. We are so grateful for their service and wish them continued success!