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My Time at Whiterock Conservancy

A blog post written by Green Iowa AmeriCorps service member, Emily Rossiter


Let me start this blog post by introducing myself. There’s a chance that you’ve either seen me at a Whiterock event, talked to me on the phone or via email, or maybe you’ve seen one of my many social media posts. My name is Emily Rossiter, and for the past six months, I have had the pleasure of being Whiterock Conservancy’s Experiential Learning Coordinator. This is a position I scored through Green Iowa AmeriCorps. I decided to write this post to talk about how I landed this position and as a way to reflect on my time here over the last six months. Also, I thought it would be neat to show everyone a glimpse of what it’s like to work out here at Whiterock.


To provide a little back story about how I found this position – last August, while most students were preparing for their upcoming school year, I was doing something much different. While I should have been preparing for my final year at the University of Iowa and graduating in May (2023) with a degree in Sociology and Environmental Policy, I was actually undergoing one of the most significant changes of my life. From facing pandemic-related burnout, dealing with my Mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and then losing her to said cancer a year ago, going back to school wasn’t the right choice for me at the moment. So, I decided to take a [much-needed] gap year. With that being said, I returned to my small, rural town in west-central Iowa.


One thing I knew for sure during my gap year was that I didn’t want it to go to waste. I wanted to keep learning and gain tons of new knowledge and experiences. However, I had no idea how I would be able to do that while living back home. If you’re familiar with Carroll County, you know there’s little here besides small towns and cropland. I always had Whiterock in mind (especially since it was only a 20-minute drive from my house). However, the only open position they had was for the Executive Director, which I definitely wasn’t qualified for. Then, I decided that a remote internship might be my best bet. After a few weeks of searching on various job websites and not really finding anything that fit my needs, I was starting to feel a bit defeated. However, I eventually saw not only one, but two different postings for a position at Whiterock through Green Iowa AmeriCorps. After reviewing the full job description, I decided to apply. Not only was it conveniently located close to home, but it was also a paid gig that offered free healthcare coverage (along with many other great benefits), a Segal education award, and not to mention that it was the exact kind of experience I was hoping to gain during my gap year. After a few weeks of interviewing, frequently checking my emails, and keeping my fingers crossed, I was offered the position! And then, on February 13, 2023, some of the best six months of my life began.

I don't even know where to begin in describing my time here at Whiterock, but I guess it would be best to start from the beginning and work my way through the highlights of my service term. One week into my term, I was already learning about power tools (such as chainsaws, brush cutters, etc.), and after introducing the tools, we were taken outside to go fell our first [little] tree.


A few weeks after that, I started helping out with the work of restoring our kame back to a native sand prairie. I was out there marking hazards such as holes, large rocks, and large stumps; brush cutting or chainsawing back the smaller stumps; and eventually even helping to seed the kame! Around that same time, I was given the opportunity to take some courses to become a certified Type 2 Wildland Firefighter. This process consisted of nearly 40 hours of online lessons and exams and then a day-long field day held in the Loess Hills. I am thrilled to say that I now have the proper certification to go out and fight wildfires (if I would take the Pack Test and obtain my red card), which is something I never thought I would say. If it weren’t for Whiterock, I would never have thought of doing this. This training proved to be helpful because nearly two weeks later, I was experiencing my first [Spring] burn season out at Whiterock, where I participated in four different burns.


Besides all that fun field work, being the Experiential Learning Coordinator meant that I was in charge of many educational programs. Some of my educational work highlights include planning a field trip for the entire sixth-grade class from Perry Middle School. Another big field trip I organized start-to-finish was the annual P.A.C.E.S. field trip. This after-school/summer school program in Perry is for preschool - fifth-grade kids. I was able to brainstorm various age-appropriate environmental lessons and activities for the kids to do throughout two hours. On top of that, I helped plan out lessons and presentations for two different STEM Fests, lessons and activities for the three times that we participated at the Coon Rapids farmers market, and organized a Family Fun Weekend (which ended up being two different weekends, thanks to the crazy Iowa weather). I created an entire Whiterock scavenger hunt and held a nighttime activity that taught kids how to identify different animal tracks.


In addition to teaching others through these various activities, I was able to learn so much myself. I now feel more comfortable getting up and talking in front of large crowds (it’s still a bit scary, but after many presentations and leading many different activities, it has definitely become easier!) I also feel more confident planning projects or events and working more independently. Besides that, I have learned how to identify many different plants, which is great for this plant-loving girl, but a bit unfortunate for my family and friends who are stuck hiking with me because I now point out every single plant I recognize. I have learned about sustainable agriculture techniques, land management practices, and how to test water quality.


I can’t emphasize enough just how incredible of an experience this service term was for me. Besides learning so many new things and gaining lots of experience in the field of conservation, I was able to meet so many great people. I made friends with my fellow Green Iowa service members and other Whiterock employees. I had the best coworkers who never made me feel bad for asking many questions. They knew that I wanted to learn and were always happy to teach me. I had terrific supervisors who offered me excellent guidance throughout my term and are now notable mentors in my life. I was able to network with so many people in the local community and even those from all over the country as I attended the North American Prairie Conference in June (another thing I would never have thought to do on my own!) I also got to meet so many amazing guests.


So, if you or someone you know would be interested in a position like this, feel free to reach out with any questions or click here to learn more about Green Iowa AmeriCorps and their open positions. I seriously can’t recommend this opportunity enough. It was an incredible learning experience and would be perfect for anyone considering gaining experience in this field. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate who isn’t interested in college quite yet, a recent college graduate who isn’t ready to jump into a full-time career, someone like me who is taking a break from school, or even someone who is looking for a career change or maybe you’re retired and looking for a little side gig, Green Iowa AmeriCorps has positions that are fit for nearly everyone!



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5件のコメント


han gu
han gu
4 days ago

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いいね!

Quintan Barnes
Quintan Barnes
6月15日

Investing in education is investing in a better future. It opens doors to opportunities and broadens horizons. When coursework becomes overwhelming, do my homework is a reliable resource for academic support and guidance.

いいね!

dryfirewoodd
5月17日

The difficulty curve in Friday Night Funkin keeps me coming back for more challenges.

いいね!

sarahgarst
2023年8月24日

Thank you for learning, for growing and for sharing your gifts. I got to see you in action!

いいね!

不明なメンバー
2023年8月24日

So very, very proud of you, Emily! What a fantastic experience!

いいね!
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