May 31, 2011

AmeriCorps volunteers make U.S. a better place

When I say that I'm an AmeriCorps volunteer, people often think I'm either in the Army or building bog bridges in Baxter State Park. I'm an environmental educator with the Maine Conservation Corps. Over the course of a year, I've spread my fingers across the state of Maine, determined to make a positive impact wherever I could.

Growing up in a rural town of Pennsylvania, I dreamed of moving to New York City and becoming an actress, so I studied marketing and art. After living in different cities, states and countries, I realized what an awesome place I grew up in. I could run a half-mile to a huge lake, hike up the mountain behind my house, and go for sled rides in the field next door. I realized the environment allows us to sustain a happy life.

I discovered my environmental heart after graduating college. My AmeriCorps experience allowed me to gain an environmental background and new skills. I held interpretive programs at state parks, volunteer days, mapped trails and worked amongst people who care just as much as I do.

AmeriCorps members make a difference all over the United States, making a better, safer and caring place to live. We receive a small stipend to pay rent, but we volunteer because we want to make a difference and gain experience.

AmeriCorps provides opportunities for high school grads, college grads, adults and senior citizens. Thanks to AmeriCorps, I work in conservation now; others of us feed the homeless, educates kids in the classroom, builds trails in the parks, does biological studies on the clean air we breathe, land we hike on and water we swim in. When I come back years from now, I will be able to see the difference I made.

Laura Keating, Randolph

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