VetsWork: Blazing a Trail in the Right Direction

Every morning when I start my day, it is still dark outside. I wake up so early because I have an hour commute to my job site, and I want to make sure I start my day punctual and ready to go. As I walk to my car, the sky is dark, the stars are twinkling, and the moon is still beaming at full swing. The local frogs by the pond are croaking a comforting tune, along with the joyful singing of the Indiana morning birds. I love the sounds of the birds in the morning because they are so different than the bird sounds that you hear in the mornings, back in my home state of Ohio. Rolling my windows down and heading for the road, I put my morning music on, as I sip my coffee. Driving down the roads, through the busy city I live in, I’m making my way to the Ohio River Scenic Byway, where I will be driving, during my hour to get to my job site.

The feeling is invigorating during my drive, as the wind blows against my hair, and I get lost in the lyrics of my morning music. The sun is slowly rising in the horizon, of the local Midwest farmland and silos, and radiating a beautiful glow of reddish, orange colors, amongst the pinkish, blue, and purple colors against the morning sky. The colors are so pretty, they almost look like cotton candy. With the wind blowing in my hair, the sky looking radiant as ever, and the music comforting my soul, I began to slip away into deep thought. A thought that came to mind was, how it was such an honor and a privilege it was, to be where I am, and where I am currently headed.

Who would have thought I would be in this position? I came from a town with little to no opportunity, with two bachelor degrees that I couldn’t put to use anywhere, and I had a family of 6 depending on me. I had applied to over 150 jobs and no one would give me an opportunity to prove my work ethic and my skills, without the required education, or the specific degree. I felt that my time in college was such a waste, as I had no opportunity to look forward to, but then I came across a posting from the Mt. Adams Institute for veterans, and figured I would give it a shot.

The VetsWork AmeriCorps position was for a natural resource intern position, but I didn’t have an environmental or biological related degree. I didn’t think I could possibly have a good chance, since my degrees were in other fields, but I APPLIED ANYWAY. So, I applied to the Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork internship program. I watched their amazing videos of prior interns that completed the program, saw them being exposed to an environment that they are passionate about, and how they went on to do great things. As I was applying, these facts made me want the opportunity even more. A week or so, after I applied, I had received a phone call from the Mt. Adams Institute about me possibly becoming an intern and they wanted to do a phone interview with me. Once I got through that process and interviewed with the supervisor at the location that I applied for, I was offered the position, and I took it in a flash.

Now, here I am, blazing a wonderful trail for myself and my family, by learning and training in an environment I love, and earning great skills that are going to pave my way to my future career in an environmental, nature/wildlife-related career field. I have not even been here for a whole two months yet, and even started the program later than the rest of the VetsWork interns across the nation, but I have learned so much already. I’ve assisted in timber markings, planted trees, assisted in aquatic surveys with taking fish samples, I have taught 5th graders at the local elementary school how to plant a tree properly, started to learn how to identify the different local trees, assisted in tree measurement, took a tree risk assessment training, learned about what invasive plant species were, how detrimental they were to the health of our forests, and assisted in eliminating these Non-Native Invasive Species, in order to promote a healthier forest. This is all just the beginning, too!

If it would not have been for the opportunity, that the Mt. Adams Institute had offered me, I would not even be here. I can only imagine how miserable I would have been, staying back in my hometown, searching through all of the mediocre jobs that were hiring, and how I would have had to settle for what I got, even after I worked my butt off in college to build myself a future. Mt. Adams Institute valued my potential and saw the possibilities in my future. To be offered this wonderful opportunity working towards a career field, in an environment I love, I can’t even place the words, on just how grateful I am, at this chance given to me. The great thing is, is that I’m only getting started, and still have much more hands-on training coming up with bat surveys, herbicide certification, invasive species training, and so much more.

The people of Mt. Adams Institute are more than just an organization that offer you the chance to get into an environmental related field that you love. They offer you guidance, support, and the encouragement you need, throughout the whole process. The whole Mt. Adams Institute team are your cheerleaders and some of your biggest support system, throughout your individual internship journey. That is one of the best things that makes this organization stand out, above the rest. Not only do they offer you the chance of a lifetime, in getting your foot-in-the door, towards an environmental career future, even if you don’t have an environmental or wildlife-related degree, but they support you throughout your journey, every single step of the way! For my family, and especially in my situation, that my family and I had come from, the Mt. Adams Institute was a Godsend for me and my family. The solid stepping stone and the foundation we needed, to get a new start. It is because of them, my future with my family is looking brighter than this beautiful morning sun that I see every time I drive to my job site. I am so humbled and appreciative.