By Lexie Folkerts
I’ve been living here in Livingston, Montana serving my community with Energy Corps for three months. It feels like it’s been at least six months because of all the ups and downs I’ve gone through personally, and the learning curve that goes with service work. I’m so grateful that within days of me arriving in Montana and beginning my service I was able to attend the Montana Serve Symposium. I feel that the training and education provided at the symposium better prepared me for what my service term would look like. While at the symposium I couldn’t even call myself an enthusiastic beginner because it didn’t even feel like my service had begun yet, and I was still holding on to so much doubt and negativity from previous work that I wasn’t even ready to fully accept the service I had walked into. Now, about three months later, I can say that I have left the disillusioned learner phase and entered the cautious contributor phase. I no longer feel completely lost just two weeks after discussing my service work with my supervisors. I now, for the most part, know what to work on and the goals I’m working toward.
To say that this experience has been unique would be an understatement. I had never been to Montana before now, I have no family in the state, Livingston is the smallest town I’ve ever lived in, this is my first time serving with AmeriCorps, and to top it off, this is my first time living through a global pandemic. It’s always challenging making friends in a new place without the aid of something structured and routine like school. A pandemic just puts a cherry on top of the challenges of living somewhere new. Livingston only has one Energy Corps member, but we’ve also got a Food Corps member. In the past few weeks we’ve started a sort of routine with Livingston’s previous Energy Corps member Alexis, Farmer Aubrey the Food Corps service member, and myself getting outside and hiking. We’ll be white water rafting this weekend and hopefully an added hike as well. I am grateful for the few friends I’ve made so far and the lovely experiences we’ve had, enjoying Montana’s natural beauty.
When I started on this journey I was emotionally taxed. This transition, just like other big changes in my life, has rattled me. I feel much stronger now to know that I overcame all of the growing pains and grew to love this beautiful state. Ten years ago I left high school wanting to change the world. Overtime as I learned how cruel the world can be, I grew slightly more pessimistic. The past three years since graduating as an Environmental Resources Engineer I’ve been trying to learn what a professional career in ‘saving the world’ might look like, and I’m starting to think I may have found my niche. Applying to jobs sometimes you don’t think twice as to why you’re drawn to certain fields or types of work. While I have many interests and passions, my resume shows pretty clearly that helping people and serving is where I feel most at home, most useful. In 2015 I spent six weeks in the Dominican Republic creating eco-friendly cinder blocks and plasters that we applied to a rural pharmacy and police station. I’ve taught elementary school kids about my high school’s local flora and fauna surrounding our wetland, and I’ve taught them Spanish. I could probably argue my years of experience as a waiter shows how important serving the public is to me too. Serving here in Park County and the City of Livingston, it feels like government work may be my best avenue toward making a difference in people’s lives and saving the world. So thank you, Energy Corps.