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Earth Team | Volunteer Story

Earth Team Volunteer Program Provides Future Opportunities for Participants

By: Stephanie Cole, Earth Team Volunteer
Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hays Area Office

I became an Earth Team volunteer because I wanted to transfer my passion for the environment into efforts that would truly make a difference. I met Jan Klaus, who works for the NRCS, at the Hays Area Office, at a Campus-Community Service Fair at Fort Hays State University. Jan was very friendly to me, provided me with useful information, and asked me to indicate specifically how I would be interested in volunteering. Looking back on the experience, I feel that this was an important part of building a future relationship. I told Jan that I would be interested in public relations, writing, and office duties. It wasn't long before I started writing articles and press releases for the NRCS.

Giving volunteers the opportunity to use their best skills and being involved in a way that is appealing to them is probably one of the reasons why Kansas is among the leading states in volunteer hours. Other volunteers may prefer to work in the field and would become bored in the office. However, the NRCS Earth Team Program places volunteers in areas where they will be the happiest and the most productive resulting in a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone.

My time with NRCS has been a learning experience in several ways. I gained knowledge about the NRCS, what the agency is involved in, and how individuals can help protect our natural resources. Furthermore, I was involved in several volunteer opportunities that allowed me to contribute to the organization's conservation mission. In fact, one of my first volunteer assignments was to produce a press release about an NRCS program that would provide payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources and identify and reward those farmers and ranchers who are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations.

A few months after producing this article, I was given the opportunity to do an internship at The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, in Naples, FL, and became involved in promoting a program that was similar to the program I had written about for the NRCS. Not only did I use information that I learned from the NRCS to make my internship in Florida a success, but I'm confident my experience with NRCS helped me obtain the position and that allowed me to further my involvement and contributions in environmental conservation. Although my internship was not with the NRCS, it was for an organization that has a conservation-based mission reflective of what the Earth Team volunteer program is all about.

In conclusion, my time as an Earth Team volunteer has been educational, enjoyable, and productive. Since my internship with The Conservancy, I have continued my involvement as an Earth Team volunteer. The program has allowed me to build friendships, practice skills that are directly related to my educational goals and most importantly, the Earth Team volunteer program has fostered my passion for conservation.