A Year of Service, A Year of Change

By Katie Simpson-Johnson

One thing my service has not been, is intensely involved with hands on sustainable farming operations. That’s okay, I never expected it, although I do get intense jealousy when the Whitefish crew talk about their adventures in creating an edible forest, or when the Frenchtown member discusses her service-long endeavor into aquaponics. However, for all the hands-on work I’ve been missing out on, the theoretical, academic work has been plentiful.

Sitting in front of my computer screen, I’ve been knee deep in sustainability, sustainable farming practices, and geothermal energy applications for the past several months. As I descended into the world of renewable resources and their applications in agriculture, from large commercial farms to small-scale grows, the personal dream of a lush, productive backyard garden with features such as a small passive solar greenhouse bloom in my mind. While the research was to benefit a new publication my team has been working on, it had a huge impact on the both the way I view small-scale renewable energy and on the dreams I have for my own life.

My entire term has been that way. I entered into this service year with very few expectations, partly because the job description was excellently vague and because I didn’t want any of my fantastical dreams to be dashed when I got into the nitty and gritty. With that mindset, the year evolved into something I couldn’t have dreamed it would. Not only did I gain knowledge and learn new skills in different areas of green energy, but it taught be how to be a productive employee and a good coworker; how to learn on the fly and apply my newly gained knowledge; the value of service for a cause you care for; and it may have even set me on the path that has lead me to my dream graduate program in the fall.

I did not and could not have anticipated the change this year would create within me. I will be eternally grateful for all this year has given me. While I know it’s not currently within the means for everyone in this country to perform a service year, it is something I would encourage everyone who can to do. From entertaining an entire gym full of elementary-aged students as I educated them about recycling, to hanging out at the hotel with my fellow Energy Corps members after a long day at Mid-Service, to the months long process of writing, rewriting, editing, proofreading, and rewriting again a publication with my Energy Services team, to fly fishing the Big Hole river at dusk as bats swirled around me, the memories from this year will be with me for life.

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