The Rewards of Service

Erin Anderson, Energy Corps member with Boston Mountain Solid Waste / Washington County Environmental Affairs reflects on her service experience in her last Energy Corps blog entry.  Erin writes:

As I sit here writing my last blog entry for my Energy Corps term of service, a sense of bittersweet finality consumes me.  Bittersweet because I am quickly approaching the end of what I would consider to be a successful term of service:  I have learned so very much from this opportunity and have made so many important connections with people that are passionately involved in the solid waste management industry.  Endings are always sad, and we can never recreate an experience just as it happened again.  But I believe that serving a term with Energy Corps has not only allowed me to learn about and experience firsthand what is it like to work a green/sustainability-oriented job, but has given me the tools I need to begin down a career path in this particular sector.

Erin working on the straw bale EcoCenter during the Energy Corps Mid-term training
Erin working on the straw bale EcoCenter during the Energy Corps Mid-term training

Reflecting on my term of service, and thinking about what I wanted to write my last blog about, it felt important to me to mention how incredible it has been to work in my office.  As an Environmental Educator for Washington County Environmental Affairs and Recycling in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I have been given what I consider to be an endless amount of resources, support, and networking opportunities.  My site supervisor, Sophia Stephenson, has been an incredible boss, striking the delicate balance between authority figure, co-worker, and friend with grace and professionalism.  She has done her best day in and day out to make sure that my needs were met, and I truly believe that my success as is in large part due to the fact that I was fortunate enough to have her as a site supervisor.

Oh, and did I mention that she sent us- the educators in our office- to Florida? Yes, that’s right- we went to West Palm Beach, Florida for the Green Schools National Conference. The funding came from Boston Mountain Solid Waste District, which is the waste district that our office works under (BMSWD also covers rural Madison County). I felt fortunate as an Energy Corps member to be given the opportunity to attend the conference and, furthermore, to have the support of my supervisor to represent our office, waste district, and Northwest Arkansas.

The conference lasted a total of three days, and it was hosted at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The goal of the conference was to bring together educators, principals, superintendents, and non-profit and industry leaders in order to brainstorm and share ideas on how to integrate the national green movement into the healthy schools movement.  Each day consisted of a major presentation by a keynote speaker (my favorite of which was Marina LaGrave, CEO of the Latin American Center for the Arts, Science, and Education) and several breakout sessions in which participants could select from a number of topics and presenters.  Deciding which sessions to attend was the most difficult part of the conference.  There were well over fifteen breakout sessions per time frame!  I was overall very pleased with the quality of the presenters, the networking that happened during sessions, and the information presented.  One drawback to the conference was that many of the attendees hailed from the West and East coasts, where things in the sustainability world move a bit faster.  Ultimately, my favorite session ended up being a presentation by educators at the Mundo Verde (Green World) Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.  Given the nature of my specific projects for my service term, which focus heavily on incorporating the Spanish-speaking community into the solid waste management realm, I found this session particularly helpful in giving me strategies to make recycling and environmental stewardship relevant to this group of people.  I appreciated listening to the struggles and challenges expressed by the young educators with whom I could identify.

By the end of the conference, I had gained a better understanding of what the green schools movement really was, and I felt that I had met some amazing people that were leaders in this movement.  I was thrilled to attend the conference, and I’m sure I speak for the other educators in my office when I say that we were extremely impressed by the willingness of our host site to give up this incredible opportunity.  As I look back on my Energy Corps term, and as I look toward the end, I will always remember the importance of this experience, professionally and personally.

Erin AndersonErin Anderson is spending her Energy Corps service with the Arkansas Boston Mountain Solid Waste program.  Born and raised in Minnesota, she recently graduated from Carleton College with a major in Environmental Studies and a Spanish language minor.  Erin declared Environmental Studies as her major in 2010 and began doing environmental education with a program called Kids for Conservation.  Through this initiative, she taught 5th graders a weekly, hour-long conservation lesson.

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