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By: Shayla Thiel Stern

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Changing the World and Transforming Herself in Green Corps

three americorps members
Minnette, far right, with two fellow AmeriCorps members in Minnesota.

Minette Saulog realized early in her college career at the University of Minnesota that she wanted a career that would help the environment.

But when she was nearing graduation with a major in Sustainable Systems – an interdisciplinary degree blending sustainability studies, environmental science and business – she started to feel unsure about her future.

“It’s really strange to be in school for two decades, and all of a sudden, you’re not a student anymore. It was this big life transition for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to just jump into something. I wanted to work within sustainability, but I just wasn’t excited about the jobs I was interviewing for.”

Then she remembered speaking with Minnesota GreenCorps members and program managers at a student careers fair earlier that year. They were recruiting new members to begin year-long terms in September 2018. Suddenly, she realized it was the perfect opportunity for her, and everything fell into place.

What it’s Like to Serve in City Government

Minnette
Minette Saulog

Minnesota GreenCorps members serve throughout the state, addressing environmental issues and building community resilience. Members serve at local governments, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions in the areas of air pollutant reduction, community readiness and outreach, green infrastructure improvements and waste reduction, recycling and organics management.

After joining GreenCorps, members are matched through both their interests and geographic preference. Minette gravitated to air pollutant reduction and energy conservation, and since she preferred to stay in the Twin Cities metro area, she was placed in the city of St. Anthony Village.

Since she started her term, Minette has visited city buildings to evaluate their energy usage and made recommendations on how they can make improvements and conserve. She said she loves the opportunity to interact directly with citizens of St. Anthony doing outreach and education promoting ways to make homes more energy efficient and ways to drive less. She also has been involved in promoting a new organics recycling program.

Although much of her service involves speaking to community groups, she said she loves being able to serve alongside full-time city staff members, some of whom have worked in city government for decades. She said her GreenCorps service has taught her how to “project myself in the workplace,” and to be professional, direct and not pushy –“an art we don’t talk about in school.”

Plus, GreenCorps has offered her a glimpse into the workings of city government and public policy that she previously knew little about. Minette hopes to find a full-time position in an environmental career when she finishes her service at the end of the summer, and government was not on her career radar before now. She plans to use her AmeriCorps education award to attend graduate school within the next several years, and her service at St. Anthony has tuned her in to programs in urban planning, public health policy and law where she would continue to focus on sustainability.

“I want to take this knowledge that is unique and emerging and shifting it to an established field, and I’d like to help shape that field long-term,” Minette said. “Going into the future, everything is changing.”

Feeling the Urgency to Change the World

Minette recognizes now that signing up for AmeriCorps service will impact her long beyond her GreenCorps service term.

“All of the members in my GreenCorps cohort feel the urgency of wanting to get out there and change the world. It gives us a common ground,” she said. “It sounds a little cliché, but every day I feel like I am making something happen in St. Anthony — and I think everyone in GreenCorps feels that way about what they accomplish at their host site.”

Despite her drive to make the world a better place, Minette said she was first hesitant about joining AmeriCorps. None of her friends, relatives or classmates had ever discussed national service or Peace Corps service, and she said that in the past, it was easy to get caught up in the idea of a high-powered, high-paying job right out of school.

“AmeriCorps isn’t glamorous, but it has built character in me,” she said. “In the past, I was the kind of person who had a hard time getting past what other people thought about me — especially about how I’m not really making much money right now. But I know how much my service means to me and how much it means to other people now that I’ve experienced it. Because of that, I no longer really care what other people think, and I was not expecting to get that out of my GreenCorps service.”  

In addition to giving her a new perspective, Minette knows that GreenCorps service will change her future, too.

“Allowing myself to have this experience when it wasn’t necessarily something I had to do, it gives me different perspective to all the opportunities to come,” she said. “I am going to talk about this year in GreenCorps forever – for the rest of my life.”

Interested in learning more about Minnesota GreenCorps? Or if you are interested in other opportunities, view our many AmeriCorps programs.

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