AmeriCorps and SVT: More Than a Decade of Service

Since 2009, Sudbury Valley Trustees has hosted AmeriCorps members through a statewide program now known as TerraCorps. TerraCorps members serve across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a wide variety of conservation, land access, and sustainable farming organizations. 

SVT’s TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members spend their 11 months of service helping SVT fulfill our mission “to protect natural areas and farmland for wildlife and people in the 36 communities that surround the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers.”

One goal of the TerraCorps program is to equip its members with the skills needed to become the next generation of conservation leaders. And it works. Following their service, many SVT TerraCorps members have pursued advanced degrees in environmental programs or found full-time positions at conservation organizations.

The members who SVT is lucky to host serve as as Land Stewardship Coordinators, Regional Collaboration Coordinators, or Community Engagement Coordinators. The projects that each service member work on vary by position and are based partly on the member’s individual interests.

In our Stewardship Department, TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members monitor properties, coordinate volunteer projects, fight invasive plants, and restore wildlife habitat. Paige Dolci, 2017-2018 Land Stewardship Coordinator, worked on pollinator protection and installed a pollinator garden in the back lawn of our headquarters at Wolbach Farm in Sudbury. 

“As Land Stewardship Coordinator, I was able to use both technical and interpersonal skills to perform outreach on pollinator conservation, work with local partners on a new pollinator garden near downtown Framingham, and expand a large pollinator meadow on SVT's property. The role helped me sort out the type of position and field I wanted to be in, and to gain the experience necessary to take the next step in my career."

 - Paige Dolci, Central/MetroWest Regional Coordinator, Shaping the Future of Your Community, MassAudubon

While some TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members help steward the land, others help our Land Protection staff collaborate with landowners, municipalities, and other conservation groups to conserve new lands. Chelsea Polevy, Regional Conservation Coordinator in 2016-2017, supported a project with the Towns of Berlin and Clinton to save 63 acres of forest and expand the Forty Caves Conservation Area.

“One of my favorite projects was probably helping to create and manage a crowdfunding campaign to conserve the Ciesluk Forest/Forty Caves property. Ciesluk Forest is home to important natural resources and wildlife habitat for threatened species. We raised over $40,000 during the crowdfunding campaign alone, and I remember feeling incredibly proud to have been part of such an important initiative. It remains some of my most noble work to this day!

“That being said, I think SVT did a lot more for me than I did for SVT. I developed a passion for environmental conservation that was fueled by SVT staff, all of whom perform their work with incredible devotion, excitement, and intelligence!”

 - Chelsea Polevy, Graduate Student at Humboldt State University

All SVT TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members play a big role in our community outreach efforts, whether by leading programs, coordinating volunteer workdays, engaging visitors to our properties, or collaborating with partner organizations. For many, meeting SVT’s supporters and being a part of our wonderful community had a big impact. When Alicia Coleman served as Regional Conservation Coordinator for two terms, 2014-2016, she frequently led nature walks for SVT members.

“Leading trail walks on SVT properties was one of the most formative experiences during my AmeriCorps. It combined my favorite elements of conservation--talking about land protection, interacting with plants and the outcomes of good stewardship, and collectively learning how to "see" nature in different ways. We shared our time, our maps, and our laughs--nothing beats that!”

- Alicia Coleman, PhD Candidate, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

And one TerraCorps-AmeriCorps member stayed close to home for several years. Shortly after concluding two years of service in 2013, Ashley Davies joined SVT as a Land Protection Specialist, eventually being promoted to Senior Land Protection Specialist. Ashley worked on numerous projects during her tenure, and played a key role in the protection of several local farms as well as in the Tri Town Landscape Initiative and the High Ridge Initiative. She stayed with SVT until Summer 2020, when she moved on to a position with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, where she is putting her land protection know-how to work in the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program.  

“As an AmeriCorps member at SVT I was thrilled to be able to dive right into land protection work and to own several projects. My favorite project was working on the protection of Great Oak Farm in Berlin. I spent time getting to know the wonderful Steen and Carla Bentzen, their family, and dog. Working with them and trying to determine a path forward that worked for their family, their financial situation, and their farm, was delicate, interesting, and educational in so many ways.

"Though it would take several more years--while I was a part-time contractor with SVT and eventually a member of the staff--I eventually saw the protection of Great Oak Farm through. My time with AmeriCorps allowed me to learn the ins and outs of land protection work, but more importantly it taught me the human element of this work. Strong relationships and helping your fellow man are at the heart of this work and I'm grateful to the AmeriCorps program for allowing me to see that and to choose this fulfilling work.”

- Ashley Davies, Senior Land Protection Specialist, Sudbury Valley Trustees

 

Working at SVT has had a lasting impact on our TerraCorps members. They gain valuable experience in land conservation and also get to peek behind the curtain and see how nonprofit organizations function.

And SVT has also benefitted in innumerable ways from the efforts of the many TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members who have dedicated their time, hard work, and passion to the organization. We are eternally grateful for all that they do and are truly amazed by what they accomplish.

If you want to become a TerraCorps member at SVT, check out the TerraCorps website for more details and application instructions. We hope to see you soon!