A few years ago, Ray Stubblefield-Tave was working backstage in a theater. She had never lived outdoors. She didn’t know how to pitch a tent.
Now, the 25-year-old spends her days building bridges and restoring trails. And most nights, she camps outside.
Stubblefield-Tave works for AmeriCorps, a network of national and local service programs that receives federal funding to address specific community needs. Members – often young adults – spend up to a year working with local organizations and receive a stipend at the end, which can be used to repay student loans or fund future educational endeavors.
This year, New Hampshire AmeriCorps will receive more than $2.3 million in federal grants – a record high that will allow the state program to welcome more members, said Gretchen Berger, executive director of Volunteer NH.
Volunteer NH administers the state’s AmeriCorps organizations and helps allocate federal funding to ensure the grants are going toward areas of need, Berger said.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for the whole country,” she said. “The funding is really meant for members to be able to make an impact on community issues, the most critical local issues.”
Stubblefield-Tave and 29 other AmeriCorps members are working for the Student Conservation Association to address New Hampshire’s environmental issues – the ones sometimes found in our own backyards, program director Bryan Blankenstein said.
From January to May, SCA New Hampshire volunteers work with local classrooms to provide environmental education to young students. From June to October, they complete hands-on service projects in the White Mountain National Forest, historic sites, state parks and for local conservation commissions.
“Creating the next generation of outdoor leaders is basically what it boils down to – the environmental leaders of tomorrow and today,” Blankenstein said.
Stubblefield-Tave and seven of her peers have been working to construct a trail in Grantham that complies with national accessibility guidelines.
“We’re putting in a brand new trail from the beginning of the parking lot to a viewing platform on the other side of the stream… . It’s a place where local people sometimes pull off or take their lunch breaks. And this is going to make it all ADA accessible,” Stubblefield-Tave said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The group will finish up its project, then meet up with the rest of the SCA group before heading out to a new site with a new small group – which is one of the best parts of the program, AmeriCorps member Chelsea Pardo said.
“You form really strong relationships with all different people here,” she said. “I guess that’s what happens when you live with them and work with them and get to know every side of them.”