ABOVE: Claire Thompson, SRT Conservation Technician; Daisy Mack, SRT Volunteer Coordinator; Sneha Kumar, SRT Education Technician; and Grace Van Kan, SRT Conservation Technician. (file photo)
This article originally appeared in Currents, Sequoia Riverlands Trust’s quarterly digital newsletter, and was republished with permission. www.sequoiariverlands.org.
(VISALIA, CA) – In a year when hope for the future seemed in limited supply, SRT’s AmeriCorps Members proved to be a major source of inspiration for the SRT community. Integral and vital to our education, volunteer, and conservation functions, these AmeriCorps members, through their national service, proved to be highly committed individuals with the grit and determination to serve SRT’s mission despite the complications of a pandemic.
While with SRT, they took local action on important conservation projects and issues while serving their country as they explored worthwhile conservation careers under the auspices of the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP).
It’s a goodbye, and a hello. AmeriCorps SRT Education Technician Sneha Kumar returned to that position for a second year in 2019. Originally from North Carolina, she fell in love with California and the Central Valley. Sneha will join SRT Education Department staff full-time upon completion of her AmeriCorps service.
“The past two years at SRT have been truly life changing for me. Through AmeriCorps, I have learned so much about local ecosystems, teaching, and SRT in general,” Kumar said. “Additionally, I have been incredibly fortunate to explore California and really grow some roots in this community. I have gained true lifelong friends, and I truly feel like a California girl. I am excited to continue working in the Education Department and continue teaching students about the environment and the amazing local opportunities in the Valley.”
Following her first year of service, Claire returned to SRT for a half-year AmeriCorps stint as field crew lead. She also lent SRT some of her beautiful outdoor photography in the process, as seen in Currents. In the spring, Claire completed her service to SRT and AmeriCorps and joined Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as a Biological Science Technician. She now roams the high country beyond the reaches of the internet, news of the world. etc.
“As expected, I’ll be taking lots of pictures. I can’t wait to share them with everyone once I return from my societal hiatus. I’m anxious about what state the world is going to be like when I come out of the wilderness, but I really hope it will be at least slightly better,” Claire said in a final social media post before departure.
Daisy Mack came to SRT in fall 2019. Growing up at Camp Nebagamon in northern Wisconsin instilled a deep love of the natural world in her, leading to her conservation volunteer service with SRT.
“My time at SRT has been exactly what I came out to California for. My goals for the year were to gain experience in outdoor education, work outside frequently and do a little bit of self discovery,” Mack said. “Through our SRT Education Department I had been working with students in SRT’s ongoing EARTH Academy program. This work with excited young people led to many rewarding moments. Working through the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership program has been a great experience for me. I have met many cool people with interesting positions across the Sierra Nevada range. In the future, I look forward to more outdoor education and continued work with clean water projects to protect our natural lakes and waterways.”
Grace Van Kan
Grace lived more adventures than most experience in a lifetime in her first decades on the planet. She spent her formative years in Howard County, Maryland before moving with family to the Philippines and Japan, where she attended high schools. After graduating she participated in the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program in Koh Tao, Thailand, then graduated from DePaul University in Chicago, IL with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, participated in service projects with the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management in Georgia and Utah, respectively; then spent a summer as a Youth Conservation Corps crew leader in Virginia among other pursuits. Grace then joined AmeriCorps as SRT’s conservation technician.
“What an incredible experience it has been to work and conserve California’s stunning lands. This past year has provided me with great insight into an environmental culture that I was unfamiliar with, having come to Visalia from Chicago and having had little understanding of what exactly a land trust was,” Van Kan said. “I am grateful to have been able to work with both newcomers navigating the environmental career field as well as professionals with deep roots and wisdom. At the end of my term as a SNAP member, I will be returning to Virginia to further my environmental career and education.”
“SRT is incredibly grateful to our valued AmeriCorps members and the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership,” said Cam Tredennick, SRT Executive Director. They brought their passion, curiosity and spirit of national service to SRT from all over the nation and have left our organization better for their participation. We wish them all the very best in what we expect to be productive careers ahead.”