AmeriCorps Update- Fall 2023
…by Jessica Saxton
From one AmeriCorps to the next
My last day as Umpqua Watersheds’ AmeriCorps was July 31st, 2023. The Twin Lakes Youth Campout was the last activity I planned, and I am so grateful for the volunteers, UW staff, and parents who helped to support this event. Today’s article is my service’s highlight reel, a chance to demonstrate the opportunities my position created.
I was able to accomplish a great deal as this organization’s AmeriCorps. In 11 months, I provided environmental education for 600+ Umpqua youth, hosted events, worked with six schools, and harnessed the power of 70 volunteers in our community. I had the opportunity to host the radio show Living Downstream, which encouraged me to branch out of my comfort zone and interview various knowledgeable people. I still don’t enjoy listening to my voice. Yet, I have gained much confidence by interviewing more than 30 people and producing 20 episodes.
I am genuinely grateful for the experience I gained serving with Umpqua Watersheds. I not only had the chance to give to our community as an AmeriCorps, but I also gained so much. This last year, I felt like a sponge, soaking up so much new information in environmental teaching, classroom management, civic responsibility, community service, leadership, and planning. I look back at the beginning of service and can’t believe how much I have learned and grown as an individual.
This article is also a chance to thank you- to show gratitude to all the members of this organization, especially my supervisor, Kasey, who supported me during my time with Umpqua Watersheds and while I furthered my education. Thank you to the UW Board Members and staff who provided much guidance and mentorship. Also, thank you to the Douglas County public school teachers who opened their classrooms to my environmental lessons and activities. Robyn Bath-Rosenfeld’s (previous UW AmeriCorps) classroom was the first place I taught. I appreciate Robyn’s guidance with classroom management and teaching. Thank you to the City of Roseburg for helping host the Martin Luther King Jr. Day River Clean Up. Finally, thank you to all the supporters, sponsors, and grantors who funded our efforts to bring watershed education to the Umpqua.
Now that my service has ended, I will stay in the area for now, pursuing a bachelor’s in Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Conservation to further my ambitions to work with wildlife or become a public school science teacher. Serving with UW has emphasized how crucial environmental education and exploring nature is for all ages. In the future, I want to serve the community, protect our wildlife, and educate youth.
Umpqua Watersheds is welcoming their newest AmeriCorps, Julie, in September! She is an incredible woman with a strong passion for education and outreach. Watersheds is so lucky to bring her on board! She volunteered for the Twin Lakes Youth Camp Out, connected with everyone involved, and will excel as the next AmeriCorps. It takes a lot for this organization to bring on staff and resources- now that my service is over, and like you, I am a citizen supporting my local watershed. Please consider giving what you can and support UW with a donation today! This donation will go towards our newest AmeriCorps and the resources she will need as the Environmental Education and Outreach Leader. I appreciate your support and making our service possible!
The next AmeriCorps… by Julie Lowe
Hello Umpqua Watersheds Community! My name is Julie Lowe, and I am delighted to be the new Environmental Education and Outreach Leader for Umpqua Watersheds through the United Communities AmeriCorps program.
Born and raised in Montana, nature has been my home and love from my earliest memories. Having lived in both the mountains and plains of Montana, nature was my first teacher, and I have never looked back. With a degree in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science, I am a life-long learner and teacher, with studies in Wilderness Management, and certifications as a Master Naturalist, and a Master Herpetologist. My expertise is with nature-based, hands-on science and I have spent over 15 years teaching physics, chemistry and natural sciences to children. With a love of learning and an overwhelming enthusiasm to teach and inspire others, especially our youngest community members, I strive to embrace the quote from Naturalist David Polis in everything I do:
‘Why must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the water and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.”
While in Maryland, I was fortunate to work for two non-profit organizations, the Wilderness Society and American Rivers, learning first-hand the value of legislation on a national level as a tool to protect our most profound national treasures, our wild lands, and our rivers.
At the same time, I saw first-hand how critical working on the ground, at the grassroots level, is where we reach the individuals and communities who are the heart of any meaningful change. I firmly believe that knowledge and education are the keys to empowering individuals with the expertise, skills, and awareness to effect meaningful change where necessary while reserving the finest in nature before it needs rescue – giving them the tools to “save the best and restore the rest.”
I am very blessed to have recently returned to the northwest, where I can jump in with both feet into the one hundred valleys of the Umpqua! I have already met several incredible naturalists in the area and was thrilled to participate in the Science Week camp by the Umpqua Natural Leadership Science Hub (UNLSH). I am very excited to begin my work in education and outreach with Umpqua Watersheds. Our wildlands and rivers are truly the last of our very best places – national and irreplaceable treasures – and there is no better example than the Umpqua Valley. I have come full circle as I return to my old stomping grounds, and I cannot wait to make a difference.