Mae is a Climate Impact Corps member who has been serving in the Community Forestry Initiative since the fall of 2022. Her site is Frogtown Green, a St. Paul–based nonprofit that works to create and maintain green spaces in urban neighborhoods.
What’s your background, and how did you get into the AmeriCorps fold?
I’m from Sioux City, Iowa, and moved here in 2018 to go to the University of St. Thomas; I graduated this year with a bachelor’s in journalism. I’m the youngest of four, and there’s an expectation in our family that after college we go to grad school or do a service program. Two of my sisters served in AmeriCorps, and one in the Peace Corps. From them I knew that serving is hard work but really worth it — you get a couple of great financial benefits and a lot of social-emotional benefits.
AmeriCorps has so many programs — why did you choose to serve in Climate Impact Corps?
I always wanted to be an environmental journalist when I grew up. I love working outdoors and getting my hands dirty; I also love science — the research and writing and figuring it out — but my broadcast journalism program didn’t leave a lot of room for science courses. In 2021, I had the opportunity to do summer research with a St. Thomas environmental science professor, and it was really exciting and invigorating. When I was looking for a job after graduation, I checked out Conservation Corps, but they didn’t have any positions open. As I did more research online, I landed on the Climate Impact Corps page and thought, hey, this is perfect!
What does your service at Frogtown Green include?
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do a little bit of everything; it’s been really cool to see the multifaceted parts of what goes on at a small nonprofit. Through our free tree program, neighborhood residents can sign up to have trees planted in their yards. Engaging with the community is a big part of that work: getting to know homeowners, renters and landlords, doing site visits at people’s houses, checking up on tree plantings. We take care of the gravel-bed nurseries where we keep the trees, and in the fall we plant trees. This year, we planted about 100 trees from our site and another 50 or so in partnership with another neighborhood organization.
I’m also working with FrogLab, a science and art workshop we run for elementary-age kids at the West Minnehaha Community Center. It used to be a summer-only program, but we’re now continuing it through the school year. That’s been really fun — after the first big snow, we had a lesson about snow crystals where we made paper snowflakes and talked about how everyone’s looked different. Finally, as part of my service I’ll also be volunteering eight hours a week at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Mano a Mano, a nonprofit that collects medical equipment and sends it to Bolivia.
Has your service shaped the way you think about your eventual career?
I’m still thinking about environmental journalism and trying to figure out where I fit. I know I want to write, and audio is my preferred medium; do I need more schooling, more science education? I definitely want to stay in a place where I can ask questions and make connections among the things I find out. A really great thing about serving is that it’s giving me some space to decide what’s next.
It’s also letting me keep a hand in some of the things I love — for example, I’ve been interviewing people to whom we’ve given trees, to collect data on how the trees are doing and get their input on the whole process. And I’m learning a lot on the environmental science side. Last week, I went with other members of my cohort on a field trip to the Franconia Sculpture Park. They’re doing mini-forests there in a Japanese gardening style whose CO2 holding is much more than what most city blocks can hold. So we got to see some really interesting forestry practice.
Has anything surprised you about serving?
Getting to know the Cities has been an unexpected perk. The college bubble is real — I was in St. Paul for four years but didn’t know about some of the great restaurants or even that there’s this whole farm in Frogtown! The Twin Cities are very different for me now that I’m out of college. I got my Rondo Library card and spend a lot of time on University Avenue … I feel very much part of my community all of a sudden.
Do you recommend serving to people who are thinking about it?
Absolutely, I do! I’ve been encouraging a lot of my college peers to do it. If you’re not happy with your part-time job that’s not in your field, there are so many AmeriCorps programs that it’s likely you can find something in your field. If you don’t do outdoorsy stuff, you can work with little kids, high school students or seniors; you can work for government agencies. And you get great things out of it: I’m meeting people I never would have met and doing things I never would have done. The networking and connections are really valuable. The education award and loan forbearance are great, too, in terms of providing some space to figure out what your next steps are.
I’m already thinking that I’d love to come back and serve again after I’m retired. That’s one of the wonderful things about AmeriCorps: There are opportunities for all ages and skill levels.
Interested in serving with the AmeriCorps? Reach out to our recruitment team through our interest form.