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Resilience Corps NC celebrates new partnerships

The Resilience Corps NC program recently launched its latest cohort of service members who will work in communities to deliver climate change, community resilience, capacity building, and environmental education services to host sites across the state. In order to make this the most successful year yet, CTNC has added and promoted staff, and welcomed 17 service members including four who have returned for their second year of service.

Here’s where our 2022-23 Corps members are serving:

Balsam Mountain Trust
Emily Taylor
Cape Fear River Watch
Kristen Rhodes
El Futuro
Maiya Garrett-Peters

Eno River Association
Audrey Vaughn

Grandfather Mountain
Stewardship Foundation
Elizabeth Warfield

Highlands-Cashiers
Land Trust
Hope Corbin

Keeping Charlotte Beautiful
Lance Nathaniel

Keeping Durham Beautiful
Eleanor Dilworth

Meals on Wheels Durham
Lula Zeray

North Carolina Coastal
Land Trust
Madison Woodard
Bryce Tholen

North Carolina Zoo
Grace Sigmon
Mawadda Al-Masri
Sabrinah Hartsell

Piedmont Triad
Regional Council
Haley Bock

The Regional Stormwater
Partnership of the Carolinas
Kelly Hendrix (Norris)

Triangle J Council of Governments
Taylor Weddington

Read about more of our staffing and member updates below!

This year, Nick DiColandrea returns to CTNC in a new role – Climate Strategies Officer. In this new position, Nick will work with the leadership team to ensure Resilience Corps NC members are addressing community capacity and climate change challenges in all communities we serve. Learn more about Nick and why he’s committed to addressing climate change through CTNC’s mission and partnerships.

Please join us in extending congratulations to Michaella Kosia, who was recently promoted to AmeriCorps Program Director. Michaella will lead the Resilience Corps NC program by supporting host site supervisors and their members coordinating trainings, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability. Michaella brings to this role a unique public health background where she worked to address health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Our partners and members are excited to work with Michaella in this new leadership role. Get to know Michaella and her passion for community-focused service work.

Credit: Bisi Cameron Yee

As part of our commitment to working alongside community partners to achieve resilience, CTNC and the Environmental Defense Fund will sponsor three additional members to work with community leaders with the Town of Princeville, the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council in Lumberton, and The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland. These members will be focused on increasing community capacity, supporting local food systems through community gardening, and engaging in community outreach through a lens of climate change and land stewardship. Learn more about our Resilience Corps NC program.

Resilience Corps NC is still recruiting for the 2022-23 cohort!

Click here to explore opportunities and learn how to apply.

Climate Resilience Leaders – Michaella Kosia

Michaella Kosia, AmeriCorps Program Director, comes to CTNC from an unexpected field: public health. She graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in Public Health and her background comes from other areas of public health, such as addressing health disparities amongst marginalized communities in community health.

She’s bringing her unique perspective to CTNC by supporting our Resilience Corps NC host sites and members during their service term by coordinating training, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability.

When did you first realize the real and present impacts of climate change?
I probably first realized the real and present impacts of climate change back in the early 2000s. I remember Al Gore bringing attention to global warming. As a child, I didn’t realize the severity of it until years later, into adulthood. Because I’m a naturally curious person, I decided to begin educating myself on environmental issues such as global warming and the effects of climate change. Once I stepped into this area of awareness, I started to notice the changes in weather patterns. Now, it has been over 20 years since I was exposed to the topic and it has unfortunately worsened over time. I wish our country would have taken it more seriously earlier by being more proactive.

How have you seen climate change impact North Carolina?
With North Carolina being a coastal state, hurricane season in NC has become more active and it’s occurring earlier. Water levels are rising with more flooding on the coast, summers are extremely hot, and I even read that sharks are migrating closer to our shores due to the waters getting warmer.

What does climate resilience mean to you?
To me, resilience can be seeded through education on climate change, spreading awareness through that knowledge, supporting organizations who are focused on making a change and voting for elected officials who explicitly support addressing the climate crisis.

What’s one thing everyone should know about climate action?
It takes all of us! Although our individual efforts are necessary, we can truly move mountains as a collective.

What are actions that organizations in NC can do right now to make our state more resilient?

  • Make sure to include marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. I’ve observed that marginalized populations such as Black, Indigenous People of Color, immigrants, and those with special needs/disabilities tend to be left out of the conversation when they are experiencing higher/damaging levels of climate change. This can be done by having educational material in other languages, partnering with other organizations within said communities, making the educational material accessible (braille for those visually impaired, audible for those hard of hearing) etc.
  • Implement more options for staff in these organizations to work from home. Working from home would save on gasoline and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Implement more educational programs about climate change in our schools. Like Whitney Houston said, “..the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. We always want to leave the world better than we found it and this can be done through the next generations.

Working in climate resilience can be overwhelming. How do you keep going?

I do my best to prioritize my mental health whenever I feel overwhelmed. Walking our local trails, practicing mindfulness, eating well, and being intentional about spending time with friends and family.

Want to connect with Michaella? Email her.

AmeriCorps Profiles: Mawadda Almasri

A desire to live her life in service to others and the planet led Mawadda Almasri to Resilience Corps NC at the NC State Zoo in Asheboro, NC.

After graduating from NC State University with a degree in Sustainable Materials and Technology, she started her position as Diversity & Inclusion Assistant. “When I found the position with AmeriCorps, I knew it was a perfect opportunity for me to create a positive impact on the world.”

Learn more about Mawadda’s job and advice about AmeriCorps service.

What does your current service position entail?
My work mainly focuses on developing educational programs for under-resourced communities to educate them on climate change in a simple and engaging way. I’ve also put together an educational program on composting that can be presented to zoo guests in Kidzone, the zoo’s nature play area. In addition, I started a garden at the zoo, which will be used for educational workshops to emphasize the importance of growing our food.

What do you love about your current role?
I love creating programs. I enjoy deciding what information to include for the specific audience, how to organize the ideas to make them easily understood, what activities to incorporate, and what props to bring. But, for me, the best part is presenting the program to the audience and seeing them engage with the material and understand the concept.

What are the lessons you’ve learned since joining the program?
I’ve learned that things don’t always go according to plan, and that’s okay. Being an educator is about being flexible when there are last-minute changes or hiccups. I try to be patient with myself and remind myself of all I’ve accomplished.

What is your advice to others interested in AmeriCorps service?
Whatever your reason for joining AmeriCorps, always remind yourself of that reason throughout your service. Staying focused on it will keep you motivated and help you push through harder days. I always remind myself of how my service work is providing climate change education to children who might not otherwise get that education. That lesson might inspire those children to work in the environmental field.

What are your plans for the future?
I would love to stay in the environmental education sector, but I’m open to doing anything related to the environment that will allow me to make a positive impact. There isn’t a particular company or position I’m working toward, I just look and see what positions are available, and I apply to the ones that best align with my values and mission. I believe education is my calling, and I would love to focus more on educating people about various topics such as environmental justice, food waste and food insecurity, sustainable community gardens, consumerism and its impacts, and climate change and its impacts. At the end of the day, I know that as long as my work brings me joy and helps people and the planet, it will be a rewarding experience.

If you’re inspired by Mawadda’s story, click here to meet more Resilience Corps NC members (past and present) who are making an impact on communities throughout our state.

AmeriCorps Profiles: Abby Cates

Photo of Abby Cates holding worm

Expanding her personal and professional skills plus having a whole lot of fun, Abby Cates’ serves with North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC through Resilience Corps NC.

Abby is one of 15 members of the 2022 Resilience Corps NC cohort. Learn more about the impact these members make while serving with community partners across our state.

Abby completed her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences at Elon University before joining AmeriCorps. Now she’s serving as a Natural Areas Conservation and Education Coordinator for the largest natural habitat zoo in the world.

“I joined AmeriCorps to gain knowledge and skills within my field that would propel me into my future career goals,” said Abby.

Learn more about Abby’s job and advice about AmeriCorps service.

What does your current service position entail?
In my role, I conduct wildlife research on a variety of different species across 2,000 natural acres owned by the NC Zoo. I am also responsible for planning and leading environmental education programming for both children and adults. Lastly, I have become knowledgeable in the construction and maintenance of hiking trails, and I am in the process of building ~2 miles of trails on zoo property.

Photo of Abby Cates leading education opportunity for students

What do you love about your current role?
I love that I can be outside in nature most days and feel that I am making a difference with my various research and conservation work. I have always felt a strong connection to nature and this role allows me to both appreciate and protect what I cherish most.

What lesson have you learned since joining the program?
There is no direct route to any situation. This has forced me to think deeper and more creatively to solve more complex problems in the community. Also, not everyone will understand or support your work. I have learned to have patience and adapt to unfamiliar situations.

What do you wish people knew about working in conservation?
I wish people knew that there are people doing this kind of work! I have been confronted by many people who do not realize that my type of service is a career option. There is a demand for work in conservation as the importance of preserving natural land and wildlife is coming into the forefront of people’s minds. Conservation Trust for NC and the NC Zoo granted me an opportunity to start my career goals in a time when I didn’t know where to start.

What is something you wish people understood about working with communities in conservation?
I’ve learned that not all audiences will connect with you but that can’t let you feel defeated or stop you from trying. This role has allowed me to reframe my thinking around the best ways to spread information and inspire a community about local conservation. While this can be challenging at times, it is important to know how to best connect and inspire action in your audience.

What advice do you have for people thinking about AmeriCorps?
Do it! AmeriCorps is a perfect opportunity for people trying to figure out their personal and professional goals. They make it easy to find a host site and service opportunities that pertain to your specific interests.

What are your plans for the future?
I do not have any set-in-stone plans after my AmeriCorps year. However, I have always known that I wanted to be a steward of the Earth, whether that is through research, conservation, or education. I hope to share my skill set with others and create a meaningful impact on the places I travel and the people I meet. I hope to one day have my own land and develop a permaculture farm to create a standardized system that allows humans to work with nature rather than against it.

Aligning Our Programs to Meet Community Goals

In the work to change the culture and practice of conservation, this means aligning our programs to better meet the community’s goals.

In 2020, our team aligned the goals of our AmeriCorps program to meet new priorities that advance equity, improve public access, and enrich all our lives. The new Resilience Corps NC will harness AmeriCorps funding to hire young leaders on a path to environmental stewardship, outreach and education. These young professionals will work alongside communities to address climate and conservation challenges through service.

Through Resilience Corps NC, CTNC partners with nonprofit host sites in our state to address issues related to disaster services, climate resiliency, race equity and environmental education. In addition, the program supports rising conservation leaders through real-world, hands-on experience, professional development, networking, community engagement and volunteerism. Resilience Corps NC leaders will develop unique skills and collaborate on service projects that strive to build bridges between conservation organizations and the local communities they seek to serve.

Lacey (center) sharing the load.

New Focus, New Leadership

With this renewed focus, we knew we had the right leadership in our ranks. We just needed to promote her. Lacey Frownfelter is starting her new role as Resilience Corps NC Program Director.

Nick DiColandrea, current AmeriCorps Project Director, has found his next big gig and will leave CTNC in September. Nick’s legacy is building this program, but we’ll miss his can-do attitude, serious Star Wars cred, and steadfast guidance for young leaders.

Looking for a New Team Member

Lacey is currently looking to hire a full-time AmeriCorps Program Associate who will enjoy an expanded role and new responsibilities on the team. Please share this job description widely with your networks.

Resilience Corps NC Members Support COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

“My end goal is medical school, but rather than pursuing clinical research, I want to focus on how the socio-political and biocultural processes shape the daily affairs of medicine: illness, pain, birth, and death,” said Murphy Liu, 26, of Lenoir, North Carolina. “AmeriCorps gives me the chance to engage with the community, which, in turn, allows me to understand and address factors contributing to COVID-19 disparities and to develop sustainable health interventions. Health workers are not shaped only by where they go to school, but the environment of where they choose to practice.”

Murphy is just one of the two dozen volunteers who’ve been serving with Wake County Public Health since January as part of an emerging partnership between the department and CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC program. On any given day, these volunteers could be serving at one of Wake County’s three mass vaccination sites, visiting businesses to help educate them about COVID-19 best practices for their employees and customers, distributing food staples in hard hit economic areas, and promoting testing in high infection ZIP codes around the county.

Members are currently stationed at the PNC Arena #COVID19 vaccination site in Raleigh supporting vaccine distribution. Representative David Price spoke with members Loren, Kayla, Murphy, and Mary Grace about their AmeriCorps experience and commitment to service. Representative Price asked members how they’re serving North Carolinians & why they chose AmeriCorps. Watch the video now.


“I am thrilled that our Resilience Corps NC members had an opportunity to be recognized and represent AmeriCorps members serving throughout North Carolina by Rep. David Price during AmeriCorps Week,” said Nick DiColandrea, CTNC’s director of Resilience Corps NC. “The service that our members and their over 500 peers seving across North Carolina give to communities deserve our sincere and utmost gratitude. For them to have a chance to be recognized by Rep. David Price, a Congressional national service champion and recently honored National Service Hall of Fame Inductee brings me immense pride and joy. “

Resilience Corps NC members support vaccine distribution at PNC Arena.

“We appreciate our AmeriCorps volunteers for committing a year of service to important COVID-19 efforts,” remarked Dr. Kim McDonald, Wake County Public Health Director Medical Director Wake County Public Health Services. “They have extended our capacity to reach and serve more people in our county.”

Learn more about Resilience Corps NC and how the program advances our goals to build a more resilient, just North Carolina alongside communities.

A Dedication to Climate Resilience

Championing climate-resilient conservation to achieve statewide systemic change

“A resilient North Carolina is a state where our communities, economies, and ecosystems are better able to rebound, positively adapt to, and thrive amid changing conditions and challenges, including disasters and climate change; to maintain quality of life, healthy growth, and durable systems; and to conserve resources for present and future generations.”

Executive Summary, North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, June 2020

Addressing North Carolina’s Current Needs

Our state needs to prepare for the challenges our communities face today and tomorrow.  Historically, land protection efforts have been driven by a property’s conservation value scored by biology, geography and hydrology. Today, we must strive to bring additional focus to how people – all North Carolinians – may be impacted by the lands we conserve and how they benefit best from that work.

Our resilience strategy is all about protecting people just like you.

At CTNC, we seek to deliver conservation with this deeper purpose. Our diverse range of expertise in land protection along the Blue Ridge Parkway, our successful young adult service and education programs, and our commitment to advancing race equity in the conservation sector have well-positioned CTNC to respond to the needs of North Carolina communities in innovative and holistic ways. 

Guided by our values, CTNC’s staff and board have adopted a holistic approach to land conservation. Alongside our community partners, CTNC seeks to understand people’s relationship with land so we can better understand how conservation can support better outcomes related to public health, economic development, access to recreation and healthy foods, and building communities resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

-Chris Canfield, CTNC Executive Director

A strategy that’s catching on

A community-led approach to conservation is emerging in the state. The recently released North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan – which CTNC contributed to – emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to statewide resilience. This plan provides CTNC and our partners with shared, foundational goals we can build on.

The report states that “immediate focus must be on developing strategic priorities for public and natural infrastructure improvements as well as actions that integrate climate resiliency into agency operations, local disaster recovery programs, and long-term planning.”

Our resilience work is inspiring a new approach to conservation

CTNC is well equipped to deliver on that focus: we have already begun to work with community partners to develop a long-term resilience plan in Princeville and look forward to modeling this approach across the state.

Embracing equity as a guiding priority for our work, we’re inspired to see North Carolina leadership acknowledge the need to build capacity among our most marginalized communities. That emphasis is key to seeding systemic change toward greater resilience. Our state now has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to adopt policies that promote statewide resilience for the health of our land and all our people.

A close-up on the strategy in action

CTNC’s holistic resilience strategy is already taking shape.

Using a variety of resources, we will assist the Princeville community to build a more resilient future

With the help of amazing community partners, the expertise of the NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab, and the trust of the Princeville citizens, we are completing the Floodprint this fall. This detailed plan shows how smart conservation and landscape planning can help the town survive future floods while building a vibrant economy that preserves and celebrates Princeville’s proud history. 

But a plan is only as good as the action it guides. CTNC is now launching on-the-ground action to begin a first phase of work outlined in the Floodprint.

We are collaborating with partners to build water-absorbing, green infrastructure around the Princeville Elementary School. The school building, at the hub of the community, has been recently renovated and flood-proofed. CTNC’s project adds rain gardens, bio-swales, and other natural approaches to water management on the expansive school grounds. A Conservation Corps North Carolina crew will do much of the work, including building an educational trail for public use. A CTNC AmeriCorps service member will help develop an environmental education curriculum in partnership with students and faculty.

We are documenting our steps during this process to learn from, improve our work, and share lessons toward developing a statewide, community-based model for building resilience.

These are only the beginning steps in a multilayered and multiyear partnership. We know that achieving resilience will be an ongoing, challenging mission, but we are excited – and hopeful – that you will join us to help build a resilient, more just North Carolina.

Princeville continues to struggle with flooding from the Tar River.

Learn more about our Princeville Collaborative by joining our email list. You’ll receive updates as we launch new projects with the Town and other communities throughout the state.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Kelsi Dew

Edgecombe County native works to discover and preserve lost history of Princeville

Born and raised in Edgecombe County, Kelsi Dew enrolled in Appalachian State’s Anthropology program to seek a different experience from her Eastern North Carolina childhood. But now, Kelsi has returned to her roots and can’t imagine ever leaving her home.

Kelsi’s passion for Eastern North Carolina history from 1850-1900 and the Reconstruction Period called her back to Princeville where she now helps to shape the community’s resilient future as an AmeriCorps member through CTNC.  

“I want to understand where I came from and why things are the way they are. Princeville is too important to not care about, locally and nationally. It’s a historical gem. I hope more people can care and understand, visit and experience, and ultimately respect what Princeville is.”

Kelsi Dew, AmeriCorps Member
Princeville Town Manager, Dr. Knight (left), and Kelsi (right) at the Princeville Temporary Town Hall 

Under the supervision of Princeville town manager, Dr. Glenda Knight, Kelsi is now an integral member of the Princeville team. Kelsi is actively building a record of Princeville’s history and heritage to be put on display in the Town’s Mobile Museum and permanent museum that is currently being restored from damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew.

Repetitive flooding makes it difficult to fully document Princeville’s history.

Princeville has a long and often tumultuous history with hurricanes, flooding, climate change, and other environmental impacts. As the first town in the U.S. incorporated by African Americans and established by freed slaves, Princeville is also rich in heritage and cultural significance. But the town, built on swampland in the basin of the Tar River, faces threat of erasure as the community is caught on a loop of flooding, recovery, and rebuilding.

Despite the flooding and the hardships faced by the people of Eastern North Carolina, Princeville embodies a story of resilience. Land conservation and cultural heritage directly weave into Kelsi’s work because this land has an inspiring story to tell.

Looking ahead to a bright future.

“Even though the town still floods, it rebuilds. The people are what make Princeville resilient. We may have lost physical structures after each storm, but the town and its people are still here.”

Kelsi is an integral part of Princeville’s community that works to build a resilient town

Kelsi is filled with hope about what is ahead for the citizens of Princeville. Her work on behalf of the Town is bridging the past, present and future. She is part of a collaborative effort among dozens of organizations, government agencies, and town residents, working toward a shared goal of revitalizing Princeville with a commitment to sustainability and resilience. This shared vision has brought together many projects and partners in the Town of Princeville, local businesses and residents, and outside organizations like CTNC, The Conservation Fund, and NC State’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab.

Over the next year, the residents will have better resources to tell the story of the union liberation of African American people following the Civil War, the once thriving agriculture economy, and the foundation of resilience that built this community. A Farmer’s Market is in development at Heritage Park that will offer a central community hub for Princeville’s budding agriculture economy. The Floodprint by NC State Coastal Dynamics Design Lab will provide additional guidance on how Princeville can develop its historic core in ways that can withstand future flood events while continuing this transformation into a vibrant destination for Eastern North Carolina.

“There is so much positive energy here.”

Kelsi has made Princeville her home. She met her fiance here and intends to raise her own children here. She will continue to explore all that Princeville has to offer even as her AmeriCorps service concludes.

Kelsi says her next steps are not only to continue her research, but to figure out ways to share the stories she’s uncovered. She wants to find ways to present history in a way that celebrates the Town because Princeville deserves to be celebrated for its history, culture, tourism, and conservation efforts.

Kelsi on a visit to Shiloh Landing, located right outside of Princeville

CTNC is embarking on many collaborative partnerships to support the Town of Princeville and their quest to achieve resilience. Read about our partnership to develop a Floodprint that will guide the Town’s conservation and resilient recovery efforts.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Stephen Peters

How service and community work drives this future stormwater planning leader

North Carolinians are all too familiar with the damage of stormwater as we face severe flooding with worsening hurricane seasons annually. This stormwater floods towns and cities all over the state, damaging infrastructure and polluting clean water sources. Stormwater planning will directly contribute to a more resilient North Carolina for years to come.

These are the issues Stephen Peters explored during his 10-month AmeriCorps service term as he worked directly with the Kernersville community to provide stormwater education.

Stephen giving a presentation about stormwater planning!

As a native of  Kill Devil Hills in the Outer Banks, Stephen is familiar with the coastal environment of NC and the impact of storms on towns. He has first-hand experience witnessing how stormwater can damage a community. After graduating from Wake Forest University in 2020, Stephen was trying to figure out how he could combine his degrees in biology and environmental studies with his goal to serve. As a second lieutenant in the army reserves and a longtime volunteer, Stephen wanted to make sure his next steps were service-oriented. That’s where AmeriCorps came in.

“Service has always been important to me,” Stephen said. “This was another way for me to serve my community and state.”

Stephen holding a snake during a community outreach event.

Stephen provided stormwater education while serving with Stormwater SMART, a cooperative partnership between county and municipal governments to provide outreach programs educating about stormwater pollution, clean water, and water conservation. The Kernsville community is not unfamiliar with the impacts of stormwater. In 2018, the Kernersville citizens dealt with substantial flooding and damage from Tropical Storm Michael, and the local residents too often witness overflowing creeks with every downpour.

Kernsville was a town that needed the help of Stephen and the rest of the Stormwater SMART team who put together programs to mitigate the ongoing flooding issues. This task has even inspired Stephen, who was moved by his ability to help a rural community, build for a resilient future.

Stephen said AmeriCorps helped get him connected with a mentor, Danica Heflin, who coordinated environmental programs for Stormwater SMART, and helped him discover his passion for stormwater education. Now, Stephen is sure he wants to pursue a masters degree and eventually work for a local government focused on smartwater planning. He’s dedicated to engaging with rural communities and inspiring stewardship for their own environments.

In addition to educating elementary, middle, and high school science and environmental classes about water pollution, Stephen was involved with:

  • Planning Alamance Creek Week
  • Creating educational videos when schools moved online
  • Leading projects on I-Naturalist

“It was an eye-opening experience to get out in the community and teach people of all ages about how stormwater is impacting them every year,” Stephen said. “I really felt included in the community and felt inspired by their interest to continue this work. Stormwater will continue to damage towns all over NC, but hopefully I can begin to help residents build for a better future through my work.”

Stephen is still planning his next steps, but there are two big plans on his radar: completing his basic training camp as a second lieutenant in the army reserves and going back to school.

Stephen teaching elementary students about the Haw River!

“I really appreciate that Americorps, as an organization, focuses on the members and getting their own professional development,” he said. “It’s cool because you can take that time to work on yourself and develop yourself as a professional. It was definitely an incredible experience.”

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Katie Sullivan

Wetland monitoring to COVID-19 Disaster Response, AmeriCorps members can do it all

As COVID-19 uprooted lives all across the country, our own North Carolina communities were greatly impacted. All of us are proud to say that a group of brave AmeriCorps members responded to the call to serve during a time of great struggle. Members like Katie Sullivan helped connect food-insecure North Carolinians to her community’s local food bank as part of CTNC’s AmeriCorps Disaster Response efforts.

When Katie first joined AmeriCorps — a ten-month national service program designed to support environmental education, stewardship, and outreach to connect conservation organizations with local communities — she was not expecting to find herself working at a food bank packaging thousands of potatoes for the Wilmington citizens.

Katie serving with Storm Surge Protectors!

When Katie began her service, she worked with Storm Surge Protectors, a UNCW MarineQuest citizen-science project whose aim is to collect data to study the ecological condition of coastal wetlands. Katie worked in wetlands across Wilmington to monitor vegetation for seasonal changes and impacts of storms. Katie was invested in sharing wetland education at community events in the area to share the importance of this ecosystem on NC coasts and studying hurricane mitigation work while in the field.

But when COVID-19 spread across the state and citizens of Wilmington were laid off or furloughed at rapid rates, Katie was remobilized and began taking action to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Despite the risk of exposure, Katie jumped at the opportunity to continue serving her community. 

“It’s been a great way to connect with the community again in a different way, in a different setting and show what AmeriCorps members are. It’s been a great experience at both ends. As much as I miss the field, I love going to the food bank, too.”

Katie Sullivan
Katie and Audrey packing food in Wilmington

Through working at the community food bank and packaging meals for distribution, Katie has been able to help mitigate the economic impact the pandemic has had on so many Wilmington residents. She has since been able to continue field work, while also volunteering at the food bank, to balance her two passions.

“I don’t know if I could really tell you what service meant before this. I’m learning what it means to step up in a community, and rally and engage with people.”

Katie said she has become so immersed in the Wilmington community that she is soon starting her master’s degree in environmental studies at UNC Wilmington to continue her research of NC wetlands. She plans to remain in the state for years to come to take advantage of the opportunities for environmental education and to continue her work connecting the public with coastal science.

“Connecting people to the outdoors and making sure that land is available to make those connections, the work CTNC is doing to ensure that is huge. We need tons of greenspace. That was what was super important to me. I want places for people to develop their own love for the coast.”

Katie having fun with other CTNC AmeriCorps service members!

If you’re inspired by Katie’s experience with AmeriCorps, meet another member, Tamarya, who served her community through the Durham Hub Farm!

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