Excelsior AmeriCorps Members Look Ahead to a Year of Service Across New York State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the launch of New York State’s Excelsior Conservation Corps, a new statewide AmeriCorps environmental education and stewardship program managed by SCA. AmeriCorps members enrolled in the program will perform meaningful and lasting environmental projects across New York State while gaining hands-on experience and skills in conservation careers.
Through the Excelsior Conservation Corps SCA has enrolled 50 young members from diverse backgrounds, including US military veterans.
Incoming members Nick Murray and Emily Stansfield share their path from the military to SCA, and their hopes for their year with Excelsior…
What led you to SCA’s New York Excelsior Program?
NICK: I was separating from the military and was trying to figure out where my next steps should lead me. For several years, I had slowly been growing more environmentally conscious and thought that I could put my GI Bill to good use with a conservation-based program. With no actual experience in this field, I searched for opportunities that were geared towards entry-level, but serious conservation efforts. I had previously worked with SCA, right after graduating from college. It only seemed natural to start my search there. A program like Excelsior – based in my own state, drawing people from all walks of life – seemed like the perfect opportunity.
EMILY: I have been serving in the Army National Guard now for four years. I am a qualified ninety-two whiskey, which is a water treatment specialist who tests and treats water to make it potable. I was looking for a long-term internship because I wanted to spend some more time in the environmental field before deciding to pursue it as a career. I had attended SUNY Broome Community College for Environmental Science and SUNY Cobleskill for Wildlife Management, but I was still skeptical about pursuing this career, because I felt it was a very diﬃcult field to enter. But a friend who had participated in SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps pointed me towards SCA as a good place to start.
How do you feel that your experience as a US military veteran connects with your service in SCA Excelsior?
EMILY: Although I have yet to deploy to a foreign country to put my life on the line, I feel that the leadership skills that I have acquired in the Army National Guard will help me tremendously as an SCA member. I have experience being in charge of equipment, and leading a squad and platoon. I take on fueling and maintaining vehicles; I handle paperwork; and I volunteer for all State Active Duty missions, when I can be activated to go help out local communities. I have always gone above and beyond my job requirements and am ready to take on the same range of responsibilities with SCA.
NICK: I truly believe that the endeavor of environmental conservation is an inherent American quality. We were the first nation to set aside natural lands for preservation and conservation. Over time, I feel that the connection between the two has been lost. With the help of SCA Excelsior, this is just another way I can serve my country, my state, and the natural areas that makes us great.
How do you feel the SCA Excelsior Program will impact New York State?
NICK: I was born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island… I love my state and want to maintain its outdoor spaces. Coming from the city and suburbs, I recognize that it’s that outdoor tranquility that calms the New York soul.
EMILY: The SCA Excelsior Program will impact New York state in so many ways! Programs like this are important to New York lands and communities because they let the public know that people care about trying to make this earth a better home. I`ve been in New York State since the day I was born, but had not heard of the SCA until this past semester at SUNY Cobleskill. I have to say I am very grateful this organization and its people are out there doing good work.
What are you most excited about for the coming year in Excelsior?
EMILY: I am extremely excited for Excelsior. I am looking forward to the new experiences and meeting new people and getting to know them as a second family. I also cannot wait to spend time out in the field because I absolutely love the outdoors. I plan on making the best of the whole experience and can`t wait to get to know all my fellow members!
NICK: I’m looking forward to doing some great things for my state, with the help of great people. I don’t know if I can say it any better than that!