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AmeriCorps volunteers in the area to help and gain life experiences

As spring returns to the northern plains, a group of AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) volunteers has settled into the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge for six weeks as the first project of their year’s worth of service.

4/13/11 (Wed)


As spring returns to the northern plains, a group of AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) volunteers has settled into the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge for six weeks as the first project of their year’s worth of service.


The 10 young adults, from all corners of the United States, have been trained in first aid, CPR, disaster relief, basic construction and time management like all AmeriCorps volunteers, but this group is also red card-certified to assist with fire assignments.


“Our main goal in bringing them here is to assist with the prescribed burning season,” said Jennifer Jewett, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service education and outreach coordinator at the Des Lacs NWR.


Changes in the USFWS budget have left the local refuges understaffed for the often-intense prescribed fire season in the spring. “Everybody here was supportive of bringing in a fire-qualified AmeriCorps group to help,” said Jewett. “That way, we’ll never be short on a day when the weather is conducive to prescribed burning.”


The group has already completed their basic fire training courses and will continue their training under staff guidance at the refuge. They arrived in Kenmare on March 29th and will live at the refuge until May 13th, but will work on fire assignments throughout the Western North Dakota Fire District.


AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Members are assigned to one of five campuses, with this group based in Vinton, Iowa.


The mission of AmeriCorps NCCC is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with non-profits, local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national or state parks, Indian Tribes and schools, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.


Kyle Beaulieu, 23, of Governeur, NY, serves as team leader. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Furman University in Greenville, SC, and went to Uganda last year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. “AmeriCorps is a great opportunity for me to give back,” he said, “and to lead people to new places and new experiences.”


Those new places and experiences are the very reason some members of this AmeriCorps team joined. Rachel Anderson, 20, Danville, CA, spent over a year in college at UC-Santa Cruz, but she decided she wanted to see the world outside of her home state.


Matt Larrabee, 22, Hopkinton, MA, is working on a psychology degree but had never been outside of New England and wanted to travel around the country.


David Albrecht, 23, Indianola, IA, has a degree in history from Simpson College in his hometown. “I was looking for a domestic intensive direct service program,” he said about his decision to join the NCCC.


Jesse LeClair, 22, Cape Coral, FL, is a Certified Nursing Assistant who is using his AmeriCorps experience as a bridge into a military career.


Clayton Pitts, 24, Poolesville, MD, earned a degree in environmental science from the University of Maryland and wants to work for one of the government agencies someday. “This is a good way to get my foot in the door for later careers,” he said.


Some of the volunteers chose to join the NCCC as a way to focus on their future goals. Katie Singleton, 23, Portland, OR, finished her degree in anthropology at Beloit College in Wisconsin, and is using her time in AmeriCorps as a transition from academics into the application of her skills.


Carina Sweet, 23, Rawlins, WY, earned an accounting degree from Black Hills State University, and wanted to spend this year doing something productive to benefit others while she decides the next steps to take with her career.


Colton Gale, 20, South Windsor, CT, has attended classes at the University of Southern Maine but decided he needed more real-world experiences before settling on a major.


Abe Ritchie, Silverton, OR, is the youngest member of the group at 18. He wants to earn a degree in criminal law and work in law enforcement, but he was inspired by a group of AmeriCorps volunteers who served in his hometown. He actually applied to the organization during the second semester of his senior year of high school.


Although the group’s daily assignments will take them to refuge lands around the area, Kenmare residents are likely to meet the volunteers at businesses or events in town.


At least, the volunteers hope to meet several local residents, and they’re interested in learning more about the area’s history, especially with Kenmare being the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s.


While they’re in the area, they are also available to lend a hand to smaller community service projects for non-profit groups. As part of their year-long AmeriCorps experience, each member is required to perform an additional 100 hours of service, generally during the evenings or weekends.


The volunteers are available in pairs, small groups or as the whole team. They have already formed some friendships and played games with residents of the Baptist Home. Kenmare organizations with short-term projects available during the next few weeks are encouraged to contact Jennifer Jewett at 701-385-4046 ext. 221 about scheduling.


The entire group is excited about the first assignment of their year together. “We’re all happy to be here,” said Beaulieu. “If you see us, stop and say hi. We look forward to exploring Kenmare and the surrounding area.”