Friday, July 30, 2010

Washington Conservation Corps: Investing in the Future

By Bridget Mason, WCC Coordinator

It is hard to believe that nearly 10 years have passed since I joined the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC). I was just 19 years old and have been in state service ever since. I am proud to say that there are more than a few of us WCC alums who continue this tradition of service. From small non-profits to large government agencies, former members have gone on to become exceptional leaders in the environmental field. If you are not familiar, the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is an AmeriCorps Program, in which 18-25 year-olds sign on for one year of service to Washington State. In exchange, they receive excellent professional development and networking opportunities, a small living allowance (minimum wage), as well as an AmeriCorps Education Award (a scholarship for $5,350 dollars).

In reflecting on my two years as a WCC member, I would list the WCC training academies as my favorite experiences. In March and June, the Washington Conservation Corps brings together nearly 200 members in a residential facility for an entire week to attend courses in topics of their choosing. The setting is a bit like summer camp – sleeping in dorms or cabins on small, uncomfortable beds, eating in a dining hall, learning all day and playing at night. The courses have been specially selected for the WCC’s target demographic &mash; young adults interested in fieldwork. The list of topics grows each year and includes Ethnobotany, Hazardous Materials Response (HAZWOPER), and Wilderness First Responder (WFR), to name a few. These are 40 or 80-hour courses and most result in a valuable certification.

In addition to these training academies, my resum̩ was enhanced through diverse experiences while in the WCC. In a single year, I collected and analyzed environmental samples, snorkeled for bull trout, installed native trees and shrubs, worked in the state's three national parks, participated in beach seining on the Puget Sound, used GPS to monitor the topography of our coast, designed outreach materials, built homes for low-income families, and organized a local food drive. This list is long, diverse, and certainly incomplete. These experiences in the WCC program allowed me to explore numerous avenues for a future career and I eventually realized what that should be Рproviding this experience to the next generation of Washington Conservation Corps members!

I share my story with you in hopes that you or someone you know might also benefit from this amazing program. We are currently recruiting for 180 member positions. There are WCC crews and Individual Placements in more than 30 locations across the state so please visit the WCC website to learn more today.

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