Community Engagement Fellow: John Goodrick
Not many people can say that they spent a month in the woods with a silent radio as their only connection to the outside world. No shower, no internet, no toilet… or toilet paper. This is how I spent my first summer with the SCA—living in the temperate rainforest of the Olympic National Park with a fellow crew leader and six high school students. Our mission: trail restoration. Rain or shine, we worked through mud and sweat, clearing the paths of invasive species and building new paths for the thousands of hikers that move through the park every year. A year later, I’m back with the SCA for round two—not in woods of Washington State but in the streets of Washington, DC—to work with the SCA’s events team.
It has been a dream getting to work in the outdoors, instilling values of conservation in students. Being from Pittsburgh, I know what it is like when maintaining the environment around us becomes secondary. I grew up learning about the dark past of air pollution and the steel industry of Pittsburgh. When I say ‘dark past,’ I mean this both figuratively and literally. Pittsburgh, historically known as the “smoky city,” had so much air pollution that it literally darkened the skies, shrouding the city in a constant twilight. Today, Pittsburgh has become one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the US. It serves as an example that through conservation and environmentally-focused projects, there can be a measurable impact on the standards of living for ourselves and future generations.
The path that led me to the SCA is far from linear. I received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh focusing on global health. Originally, following the footsteps of a personal hero, Paul Farmer, I considered traveling the world as a doctor. After graduating, I worked as a nursing assistant at one of the biggest hospitals in the world on an abdominal transplant unit. It turns out that blood and guts aren’t really my thing. So I joined AmeriCorps and spent a year in Queens, New York tutoring and mentoring eighth graders while running an afterschool program. It was at an AmeriCorps event in Albany when I met a recruiter from the SCA. Next thing I knew, I was leading a group of high school students in a deep-set valley of the Olympic mountains. Despite being hundreds of miles away from the formerly smoky city, I felt at home.
Living in Olympic as a national crew leader was my first introduction into the rugged and adventurous world of conservation. I am excited to continue this adventure with the events team of the SCA. This year, I will be helping plan SCA events for #NestléCares, a national day of volunteering across Nestlé’s U.S. locations, including 10 cities where Nestlé, SCA, and the public will work on conservation projects. I am excited to be a part of planning events in St. Louis, Missouri and Oakland, California where projects will improve the parks of the Gateway Arch and the Sausal Creek River Basin, respectively. When I’m not event planning with the SCA, I’m tag-teaming my inner intellectual to complete my master’s degree at George Washington’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
The SCA has taught me a lot of things, but one of the most important is how to foster a sense of adventure in whatever you do. Whether it’s living off the grid in the Olympic National Park or working with corporate partners to pull off a successful volunteer event, the SCA continues to challenge me to emphasize the importance of conservation in our everyday lives. I am excited to be a part of this new experience and look forward to serving the conservation campaign with the Student Conservation Association.