Alumni Council

SCA Alumni Council 2014 -- The Next Generaton of Conservation Leaders!

The mission of the SCA Alumni Council, formed in 2007 to mark SCA’s 50th Anniversary, is to organize alumni in support of SCA and its mission to create the next generation of conservation leaders. Each year, current council members select new recruits from young alumni nationwide for a three-year term. Last year, the council welcomed six new members, bringing the total to 17.

With a diversity of SCA service backgrounds – from former high school crew members to conservation corps members – the Alumni Council is well prepared to represent and connect with SCA’s 75,000 alumni. The Council’s purpose is to act as a vehicle for organizing alumni in support of SCA’s mission, including engagement with SCA and its members, recruitment of new SCA applicants, outreach to partners and the general public, hands-on service, and other events in our communities.

While members of the Alumni Council live in diverse regions of the country and keep in touch mostly online, the Council comes together once a year at the Annual Meeting. These meetings are a chance to reaffirm a commitment to help alumni stay connected to an organization that has transformed countless lives and landscapes.

Specifically, the Council’s goals are to:

  • Plan and implement hands-on service projects and social events for SCA alumni, including events with Alumni Council or SCA partners
  • Engage directly with SCA staff and current members and support their projects and activities
  • Provide information to current alumni and potential new SCA volunteers about SCA programs and internships
  • Strengthen the SCA’s reputation as the nation’s preeminent youth conservation movement among partner organizations, agencies, and the general public
  • Serve as a source of counsel for SCA staff and board members, as requested.

The application period for joining the Alumni Council is now closed. Email if you have any questions about the council.

Interested in other ways to help represent SCA as an alum? Consider becoming an Alumni Ambassador.

Alumni Council Bios

Advisor: Lillian Bloch, ‘05, ‘07, San Francisco, CA, SCA Board of Directors

Visit the Alumni Council community pages at

Alexandra von Bieberstein, Boston, MA

I grew up in a rural area of upstate New York, where I was introduced to the outdoors at a young age, hiking, paddling, and exploring the surrounding landscape with my family, especially my adventure seeking grandparents. My first SCA experience occurred at the age of 15, when I served as a member of a conservation crew in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park—after that I was hooked! SCA offered me a way to travel, enjoy America’s most scenic landscapes, and foster adventure while serving on two additional high school crews in North Cascades and Glacier National Parks, trail crew positions in NH’s White Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in northern CA, and an alternative spring break program at Padre Island National Seashore.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York, I loaded up my Toyota and headed west for California. I found myself pointing the Toyota back east when I accepted my most recent SCA position as a preservation planning intern with the National Park Service Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston, MA. Now employed as a historical landscape architect at the Olmsted Center, I am grateful for the personal and professional development opportunities offered through SCA which assisted the launch of my National Park Service career.

Ben Dunphey, Bar Harbor, ME

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. When I was young my parents instilled a wonderful sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors in me with family vacations to Acadia National Park in coastal Maine. My first experience with SCA was in 2006 on a high school crew in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan where I spent one of the best months of my life on a wilderness island in Lake Michigan. After such a wonderful experience, I was hooked. I did 2 more crews in North Cascades NP in WA and along the Connecticut River in VT. I was also fortunate enough to attend SCA’s EarthVision Conference in Washington DC.

I graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) with a B.S. in Environmental Science with focuses on mapping and recreation and resource management. During my time at ESF I managed to travel to Utah in the summer of 2009 as a Trails Intern with the US Forest Service. In the early winter of 2011 I decided that I wanted to take a swing at leading High School Crews of my own in Denali NP and North Cascades NP where I led the Canada/US High School Crew.

After graduation in 2012, I ventured out to the beautiful state of Idaho for the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Program. During this program, I met some of my closest friends and explored some of the US’s most remote places. I then participated in SCA’s Lake Berryessa Leader Development Crew in Napa, CA. I have also worked for Friends of Acadia NP helping run their stewardship volunteer program and taking volunteer groups out into the field. Most recently, I was a crew leader for the Sierra National Forest in CA, and now currently work on Acadia NP’s trail crew.

Betsy Defries, Missoula, MT

Betsy grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, but quickly found her home in the west. Betsy’s love of western landscapes has taken her many places including the University of Montana for a degree in Environmental Studies, Glacier National Park as a naturalist, farming throughout western Montana and Colorado, the Vail Valley as a winter naturalist, and most recently in Aspen, CO as a kindergarten through fourth grade environmental science educator.

Throughout these years, Betsy could be found working in many capacities with the Student Conservation Association. Her introduction into the SCA came from cooking for Crew Leader Trainings with dear friends, and as soon as she could Betsy became a crew leader herself. Betsy first led a crew at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on Long Island, and then proceeded to lead an Alaska Native Youth crew in Lake Clark National Park in AK. Most recently Betsy was a leader for the National Park Service Academy in Kenai Fjords National Park. Working with youth in the outdoors is her greatest passion, but Betsy is also passionate about skiing, local food systems and knitting.

CJ Goulding, Washington, DC

CJ is from the great Garden State of New Jersey, where he was born and raised. He and his brother grew up constantly outdoors, either playing some sport or just exploring the neighborhood around them. After high school, he left NJ for Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL, where he studied Math and Physics. It was in Huntsville in 2011 where he connected with SCA by participating in the pilot NPS Academy (Grand Teton National Park), and spent the summer as an intern at Yellowstone. Since then, he has continued to serve in the Academy in various roles, and also in SCA as a community crew leader in Seattle. He enjoys everything from making connections between ideas to making people laugh. His major passions in life are people, growth, service, sports, and learning more about leadership.

Elle O’Casey, Woodstock, VT

I grew up on Christmas tree farm on the Oregon Coast. Our farm bordered Lewis and Clark National Park. I spent my childhood in that park and in other National Parks across the West. During my undergraduate years, I spent two summers working as an interpretive ranger at North Cascades National Park. THere, I worked alongside several SCA volunteers and became familiar with the National Park Service and SCA.

In 2009, I graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a degree in International Studies. After graduation, I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working in a rural northern Thai village. In Thailand, I worked as a teacher and community outreach coordinator. In June 2014, I completed my Masters of Public Policy at Oregon State University and am currently working at the National Park Service’s Conservation Study Institute in Vermont.

Elisabeth Allard, Palmer, AK

Liz hails from the high-five state (Michigan) where she spent every waking moment, from adolescence on, hiking the dunes of the Great Lakes, skiing the winter splendor, and canoeing the inland waterways where she developed a devout stewardship for her natural surroundings. To further develop her environmental stewardship into more direct protective action, Liz acquired a degree in Natural Resource and Environmental Science from the University of Michigan. Throughout Liz’s time in college, whenever someone asked her what she was going to do with an environmental degree, Liz responded candidly with the same answer: “Well, I am going to move into the woods, wear a lot of flannel, and grow a beard.” Following graduation, Liz packed up her flannels, wool base layers, and rain gear and traveled to Kodiak, Alaska for her first SCA position as an Environmental Education Intern with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge’s Salmon Camp.

Following her incredible experience in Kodiak, Liz moved to Paicines, California to fulfill her second SCA position as a Habitat Restoration Intern for Pinnacles National Park. A summer later, Liz returned to Kodiak to work as the Crew Leader for the Refuge’s Youth Conservation Corps and refused to move out of Alaska thereafter.  After serving a yearlong Americorps position as the Youth Leadership Specialist with Trailside Discovery Camp and Alaska Youth for Environmental Action in Anchorage, Liz put down roots in Palmer, where she spends her days working as a field organizer on a campaign to protect the Matanuska Susitna Valley from three (yes three!) proposed coal mines. When Liz isn’t hosting meetings and working with community activists, she is enthusiastic about hiking, biking, skiing, and learning to play a tune on her mandolin.

Gabriela Yao-Cohen, Oakland, CA

A true native of the Bay Area, Gabriela was born and raised in Oakland. She was first drawn into the great outdoors by the lure of making s’mores during camping trips with her family. It was while she was attending summer camp at Point Reyes National Seashore when she truly discovered her love for camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and gallivanting through nature. Her many summers spent in Point Reyes instilled a long lasting appreciation for the outdoors.

In order to ensure that the ecosystems she had fallen in love with as a child would prosper into the future, Gabriela became interested in conservation and sustainability. In high school, she participated in the SCA Bay Area Conservation Leadership Corps. In addition, she served on two SCA National Summer Crews at Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky and Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Her work with the SCA inspired her to pursue a degree in Molecular Environmental Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. Also during her undergraduate studies, Gabriela worked as a biology intern with the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts through the SCA.

Jamey Anderson, Washington, DC

Jamey is one of the many SCA alums who got their first job as a direct result of an SCA internship. After graduating from college and spending a few months abroad, Jamey was accepted to SCA’s Congressional-National Park Internship, which took him to the Interior Department in DC, where he now works, and to Acadia National Park in Maine, where he learned how conservation works at the local level. While at Acadia, Jamey saw the disproportionate influence young people can have on critical conservation projects. Among the young staff at Acadia were invasive-species eradicators, medical first-responders, trail builders, and educators. Young people helped the Park in numerous ways—from increasing the use of technology to better tell the Park’s unique story to inventorying light fixtures to help the Park save electricity and preserve the night sky. Young people are making real and meaningful impacts to conservation projects like these all across the country, and Jamey is working to see that their stories are told whenever possible.

Jean Bartholomew, San Francisco, CA

Jean is an overly proud native Pittsburgher. She began with the SCA as a high school student on a national crew 15 miles in the backcountry of Yellowstone, aka her version of paradise. In college, she participated in Alternative Spring Break at the Grand Canyon which reinvigorated her love of national parks and trail work. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Political Science, she discovered that while she loves writing she has a disdain for cubicles. Jean worked briefly at REI, replenishing her gear supply before heading back to SCA to lead national crews. In her first stint as a field leader, Jean had the wonderful opportunity to serve in Yellowstone again, in the same region of the park with the same agency contact. (Who remembered her love of breadmaking!)

Jean has gone to on become immersed in the SCA world, working on leader crews and national crews - from Denali to Virgin Islands National Park, and leading volunteer events in cities across the country. Jean recently parked her bike in San Francisco. She is the Seasonal Community Services Educator at the Crissy Field Center for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. With this role, she uses the skills and values she gained with SCA to teach placed-based environmental education to Bay Area community groups.

Jessica Sanchez, Fremont, CA

Jessica grew up in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the city of Fremont. Although her childhood included plenty of time outside and family camping trips, it wasn’t until her involvement on a permaculture homestead that really kick-started her career in conservation. It was during this project, stomping on cob and helping build a home without the use of fossil fuels, that she first began to think about her carbon footprint. This led to her pursue a degree in Environmental Studies, with an emphasis in Agroecology, at the University of California Santa Cruz. After struggling to find work post-college, Jessica found herself with an opportunity with the SCA which proved more rewarding than previously thought. As part of the SCA New Hampshire Corps, Jessica found that she had a passion for educating youth and facilitating moments out in nature. This led her to Slide Ranch, an educational farm off the coast of Marin County, as a Teacher-in-residence. With two years of environmental education experience under her belt, she was ready for a change. This change led her to an SCA internship at the John Muir National Historic Site, where she was immersed in a number of projects involving natural resource protection (including being a part of the Youth Conservation Corps). She is currently a Groundwork Fellow in the City of Richmond, helping to convert two abandoned yards into community green spaces. In her spare time, she enjoys being outside and being active whenever possible, climbing, biking, going to music shows, reading and discovering new things.

Johanna Weaver, Oakland, CA

Johanna grew up close to SCA’s National Conservation Center in nearby Springfield, Vermont, where she developed an environmentally conscious spirit at a young age. She participated in her first SCA high school crew at 15 in Denali National Park, AK, and joined her second crew a year later in Yosemite National Park, CA. During college, she spent three amazing months in the back-country of Flathead National Forest, MT, learning the ins and outs of trail construction as an SCA Intern. In 2009, she had a blast leading an SCA high school crew in Amistad National Recreation Area, TX.

Johanna studied Biology at Oberlin College with minors in Chemistry and Dance, and has assisted with ecological entomology research projects (aka bugs!!) at Oberlin, Cornell University and Harvard Forest. Additionally, she spent a semester abroad in Tanzania to study wildlife management and land use conflict in the Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor. Johanna currently works at the Climate and Land Use Alliance in San Francisco, CA, where she assists with international grantmaking that aims to reduce global carbon emissions by preventing deforestation and enhancing indigenous peoples’ rights. In her free time, Johanna enjoys dancing, biking, and general gallivanting around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Justin Duncan, NC

I recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a degree in Environmental science and a minor in Geography. I live for the outdoors and conservation and I believe the conservation of our environment is necessary. Conservation through stewardship is a positive direct impact on the minds and surrounding environment that we must always up hold. 

For the greater portion of my life I have spent it in the Boy Scouts. The single greatest accomplishment I have earned in my life has been the rank of Eagle Scout. I owe everything to The Boy Scouts of America, the adventures we took, the community service, and the love and respect for the outdoors are all things I’m am thankful to have and completed. There isn’t a day that goes by I am not thankful for what the Boy Scouts have done for me.

I love being outdoors and am an avid high adventure seeker. In 2005, I went on a trek at Philmont scout ranch for 90+ miles in eleven days and encountered bears and several other native animals. The bear encounter was due to a pack of hot chocolate left in my pack rather than properly secured in bear bags. Needless to say I learned the rules of securing your camps site properly that trip, and leaving with the nickname “Bear bait”.

I am an alumnus of the NPS Academy 2012 Grand Tetons and I was a peer mentor for the 2013 NPS Academy Great Smoky Mt. NP. During the summer of 2012 I worked at the North Cascades NP as a Fire Effects Monitoring intern. I see serving with SCA as a way to acknowledge and give back to the environment all while learning and bettering myself.

Kelly Cox, Miami, FL

A Florida girl at heart, Kelly was raised on the white sand beaches of Boca Raton before deciding that she could go for a change of scenery. She upped and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where she graduated as a member of the NC State Wolfpack with degrees in Political Science and Natural Resources Policy and Administration. Kelly is currently enduring her first year as a law student at the University of Miami where she is studying Marine Affairs and Environmental Law. An avid climber, backpacker, SCUBA diver and all around outdoor junkie, Kelly enjoys anything that brings her outside with good people. Kelly has spent some quality time with the green forests of Kentucky in Mammoth Cave National Park, the mosquito-laden tundra of Alaska in White Mountain BLM National Recreation Area, and the big mountains of Colorado in Rocky Mountain National Park by participating in three High School Conservation Crews with the SCA. Kelly is an enthusiast of snickers bars, classic rap, superheroes, naps and iced coffee. Kelly is very passionate about the SCA and its mission, and she looks forward to continuing to engage alumni during her years on the council.

Lauren Smith, Portland, OR

I hail from the under-appreciated state of New Jersey where I entered the SCA world in 2004 on the NJ Green Team. I feel I have grown up on this crew, or family, where I have been a crew member, apprentice crew leader, and crew leader for a total of nine years. I attended Susquehanna University where I earned a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences. In between I was able to attend a SCA Alternative Spring Break in Central Florida and after graduating a leader crew in Katmai National Park, Alaska. During a yearlong AmeriCorps term in New Jersey of 2012, I realized how much I enjoyed sharing my knowledge and appreciation of the outdoors to the public. I returned to school to start an M.S. in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Environmental Education from the University of Idaho in August of 2012. I truly wish to one day soon be able to work for a non-profit conservation organization and be able to engage high school and college students in experiences that will open their minds to the great outdoors and finding ways to conserve them. I have high hopes to one day live on a tropical island where I will be surrounded by mango trees and and plentiful amounts of pineapples.

Leah Duran, Oakland, CA

At the John Muir National Historic Site, I lead visitors through John Muir’s Victorian mansion, which showcases the original desk where he penned his ideas on the importance of preserving national spaces. As permanent park guide, I share my passion for the earth through ranger programs, conversation, and writing. After graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in parks management, I decided to join AmeriCorps with the intent of giving back, a small “thank you” for life’s generous gifts. My introduction to the conservation field and the NPS began with an SCA internship at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona. I was hooked, and resolved to travel, work in beautiful places, and learn and grow in ways I never before considered. At SCA Massachusetts, I shared my knowledge with students and carved trails and tree trunks with the chainsaw. In exchange, I learned the meaning of community and how to live close to the land. Afterward, I called the Grand Canyon home as an SCA habitat restoration intern before landing a job at Lassen Volcanic National Park. While serving with the NPS, I plan to keep merging my love of communication and conservation, with the idea that words can translate first to appreciation, then to action. My hope is to alight sparks, to kindle not only appreciation of these special places, but the desire to DO something, to live more consciously and lightly. I am thrilled to be involved again with the SCA, and to help enrich the lives of others while we all work towards more harmonious living.

Priya Cook, Washington, DC

Priya Cook has worked in the field of education for nine years, starting as a teacher on the Mexican border of Texas and in interior Alaska. She developed a love for the outdoors on long walks with her grandfather in the Western Ghats of India. Priya spent 11 years of her childhood in Singapore and, on her first backpacking trip as a 15-year old, discovered her passion for the backcountry and met her future husband, Brian. Priya completed an Appalchian Trail thru-hike and serves on a PATC volunteer trail crew. She spent three months in Great Smoky Mountains National Park leading environmental education programs for North Carolina school children. Priya has been a Crew Leader for SCA’s school year and summer crews and is currently helping to revise SCA’s curriculum. She also helped lead the inaugural NPS Academy in Seward, Alaska. She loves learning, working, and playing in the natural world with kids and adults of all ages. Priya has an undergraduate degree in Great Books from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Public Policy from the LBJ School at UT Austin.

Zachary Bolick, Berkeley, CA

A true Southerner, I grew up just outside of Nashville, TN via way of Chapel Hill, NC. I attended the University of Tennessee, where I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science and Global Studies. During my time as a student I became well acquainted with SCA through their much lauded internship program.

From the shores of NC, to the wetlands of the S.F. Bay area, SCA connected me with multiple summer conservation positions, all of which changed my life substantially. Trying to describe these experiences, however, is analogous to attempting to pick up mercury with a fork, so I’ll spare you the endeavor. Suffice it to say, that over the last few years I have worked positions as a seasonal ranger at national parks scattered throughout the country and even recently completed an Environmental Policy Master’s Program at Oregon State University—things I owe in large part to SCA.

Today, I work as the Development Coordinator for an environmental nonprofit call the Bay Area Open Space Council. In short, my job consists of working to garner support for the protection and stewardship of the Bay Area’s open lands. While I’m unsure as to where my career will ultimately lead me, one thing remains abundantly clear; whatever path I take will be one that SCA helped steer me toward—and for that I am incredibly grateful.