AmeriCorps Spotlight: Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor teaches future generations about Western NC species and how to protect them.

A graduate of Iowa State University, Emily applies her studies in Biology and Environmental Science to teach students about nature conservation. She serves as Education Outreach Coordinator for Balsam Mountain Trust in Sylva with Resilience Corps NC. Her main focus: collaborating with different local communities and nature-based organizations to provide accessible, quality conservation education.

Emily creates, improves, and teaches environmental science programs to Title I schools, public libraries and other community groups with help from live animal ambassadors. She showcases incredible species of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains like hawks, snakes, turtles and more! Her favorite part about the job is working with the animals and showing them to elementary school students.

Thanks to her time at the Trust, she’s learning to have patience in others and believe in her decision-making skills. From Executive Director to Laundry Volunteer, Emily gained an appreciation for the way everyone pitches in to work toward Balsam Mountain Trust’s mission. “You wear many hats,” says Emily.

Expanding conservation in communities isn’t one-size fits all. By paying attention to how people communicate, she customizes how she shares lessons for all students. “You meet a lot of different kinds of folks, and we have to come up with several ways to disperse the same information. It requires a lot of thought and body language reading,” says Emily.

Beyond AmeriCorps, Emily hopes to continue work in Haywood County at zoo facilities like the Western North Carolina Nature Center. We’re looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her!

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Lance Nathaniel

Discovering crossroads between intersectionality and environmentalism with AmeriCorps.

Lance Nathaniel promotes intersectionality and community engagement with Resilience Corps NC at Keep Charlotte Beautiful. He is a graduate of Western Carolina University where he studied anthropology, emergency disaster management and leadership.

As an AmeriCorps member, Lance helps to conduct effective volunteer outreach throughout Charlotte’s non-traditional communities. He’s not only learned about how to teach others about sustainability and uplift communities, but also discovered how manmade resources have an impact on our bodies and environment.

Lance speaks on how conservation and environmentalism needs to be supported on a systemic level. “There is much more to helping our planet than replanting trees and recycling. More funding needs to go to compost and ending petroleum-based items like plastics.”

What do you do?

As the AmeriCorps service member for Keep Charlotte Beautiful, my role is to develop and promote outreach for the city’s Adopt-a-City Street program, litter pick-ups, environmental education for K-5 students, and engaging with communities at a grassroots level to promote healthy ways to keep Charlotte beautiful and healthy.

What do you love about your current role?

I love learning about the history of Charlotte; there is so much Black history often left in the shadows. So many heroes from the Civil Rights Movement and their descendants reside in the city, still fighting for their rights. Most importantly, seeing how environmentalism plays a role in this intersectionality, I love how the resources I share with various communities can help with those efforts in creating a more equitable society.

What do you wish people knew about working in conservation?

I wish people knew how intersectional conservation is. The environment and the items we use have a direct impact on our health and it requires EVERYONE to take care of it. Not just government or city officials, we truly have to incorporate nature into our lives that is not independent of us but is a part of us.

After AmeriCorps, Lance plans on offering his experience toward decolonization efforts and promoting cultural and environmental sustainability for many Black and brown communities that are being pushed out by corporations. We look forward to seeing him make strides in his work for his community!

CTNC’s service programs allow us to provide capacity and support to resilient community partners throughout the state. To learn more about CTNC’s AmeriCorps service program or apply for an open position, click here.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Grace Sigmon

Uplifting communities through conservation education and recreation with Resilience Corps NC

As the AmeriCorps Natural Areas Conservation Educator Grace Sigmon helps to expand the North Carolina Zoo’s education, recreation, and conservation programs in Asheboro.

Each day has something different in store at the Zoo! Grace’s favorite part about her job: connecting with nature most of the day instead of sitting at a desk. She primarily helps the Zoo’s Trail Team and collaborates with volunteers and her community to advocate for public trails and conservation.

Most of Grace’s time consists of survey projects on animals like salamanders, turtles and nesting birds. She serves her community by combining environmental education, land maintenance, and wildlife observations by:

  • Planning and hosting guided hikes on Zoo trails and nature preserves
  • Aiding in routine trail maintenance and building new trails
  • Creating children’s programs about conservation in person and online

She wants people to know conservation isn’t a lonely job. In fact, communication is one of the most valuable skills to have. “Conservation careers require team effort in order to achieve goals. It takes both people within and outside of this field to make a positive impact for the sake of wildlife, the environment, and humanity,” says Grace.

A lot of Grace’s work with AmeriCorps has taught her the value of quality over quantity by finding a balance between downtime and work. She says it’s easy to accept too many tasks, but when she takes on fewer jobs in a day, her projects and wellbeing flourish.

The benefits of conservation have its roots in equity according to Grace. Expanding conservation means providing people with necessities so we can all fully engage in helping our environment.

“Conservation only works if everyone participates and benefits from it. Communities must be lifted up and receive the common needs that everyone requires so conservation efforts and opportunities can be established.”

Thanks to her experience with the Zoo and AmeriCorps, Grace has many options for her next steps working in nature. She’s confident she wants to stay in the conservation field. We can’t wait to see what’s to come for Grace!

CTNC’s service programs allow us to provide capacity and support to resilient community partners throughout the state. To learn more about CTNC’s AmeriCorps service program or apply for an open position, click here.