Searching for the Peak

Read about Juliet’s service quest for ‘Peak Performer’ status:

When AmeriCorps alum and total rockstar Shannon Stober spoke at the Serve Montana Symposium in Helena a few months ago, she nailed the different stages of emotions you experience during an AmeriCorps service term. The last time I wrote a blog, I talked about being in a mid-service slump, which resonates with the second stage of service. Now, with a little over two and a half months left in my term, I am on the hunt for that coveted final stage of service: the Peak Performer. That phase where you finally feel like an expert in your program work and are really making a difference in your community. Let’s walk through my recent stretch of the journey to this holy grail of AmeriCorps service.

I have been in non-stop go mode for the last month and a half. The craziness began in mid-April, when I teamed up with fellow Energy Corps member Callye to present Eco-Schools USA and the SMART Schools Challenge to teachers at the Montana Title I Conference in Helena. Then the tabling began. In the last month, I have attended seven events with gardening information and kids activities in hand. As a result, I now have bulging biceps from carrying boxes of Ranger Rick magazines up and down my office stairs. I took a brief break from tabling at the end of April, where I was invited to present “Gardening for Wildlife in Missoula” to a group of about 50 community members one night on the UM campus.

But as the saying goes, “April showers bring May kids outdoor activities”. At the beginning of May, my intern and I lead a native plant and noxious weed walk with third grade students at Lolo Elementary School where we taught them about the different habitat elements the plants on their school grounds provide for local wildlife. Later that week I lead a water bucket relay with middle school students at Clark Fork Coalition’s Kids River Expo, demonstrating the connection between water usage, energy conservation, and habitat impacts.

Students at Lolo Elementary gathering around wildlife habitat at their school
Students at Lolo Elementary gathering around wildlife habitat at their school

But wait, there’s more! May is the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Month, which meant this month was the perfect time to promote our Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative. We decided to push a campaign we called the “Hundred Habitats Challenge” with a goal of certifying 100 homes as wildlife habitat in the month of May. On top of this, I was able to help Mayor Engen take NWF’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, where he committed to protecting and creating more butterfly habitat in Missoula. With a little collaboration with city officials, I also wrote a proclamation for the mayor declaring the week of May 15-21st as Missoula Butterfly Week. He read the proclamation at two different events — one of which was Endangered Species Day at the Montana Natural History Center, co-hosted by the National Wildlife Federation, where Mayor Engen dedicated a new butterfly garden.  Finally, the crazy month ended with a very successful bird film night at a local theater, where we drew in over 180 people to learn about our local conservation efforts and show their appreciation for birds and other wildlife.

Mayro Engen declaring last week as Missoula Butterfly Week

Mayor Engen declaring last week as Missoula Butterfly Week

All of these events happening in a very concentrated period of time, while overwhelming, demonstrated how eager Missoula is to support programs like Gardening for Wildlife. This past month has motivated me to be on the top of my game, and seeing the crowd at the film night and the mayor reading my proclamation in two public forums reinforced the idea that what I am doing as an AmeriCorps member is leaving a lasting impact on the community. My supervisors and co-workers have been incredibly supportive throughout the month, with my supervisor Sarah even coming to my house to deliver an ice cream bar on one of my more stressful days (“There’s nothing a Dilly Bar can’t fix!”). All of this — the community support, the proficiency I finally feel I have in my work, and the positive reinforcement from those around me – makes me feel like I’m leveling up in a video game.

I think I may have finally climbed through the brush and stumbled upon that elusive AmeriCorps peak. I’m not entirely sure how I got here, but I plan on spending the rest of my service term enjoying the view.

Juliet S.Juliet Slutzker received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan in 2012 and earned an M.S. in Biology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in May 2015, where she studied conservation of stream animal populations. As a Teaching Assistant she gained valuable experience in outdoor and environmental education. As the Sustainability and Habitat Educator with the National Wildlife Federation, Juliet’s primary duties are supporting existing member schools of the Eco-Schools USA program by recruiting and training volunteers, researching funding opportunities, and presenting resources on NWF’s education programs. Additionally, Juliet works to expand participation in the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative and provide presentations, workshops, and outreach regarding the initiative.

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