Anita Goehringer, St. Mary’s County Public Schools/Elms Environmental Education Center

IMG_1674Anita describes herself as a “process-driven, goal-oriented person who puts an “all in” energy into every activity and opportunity pursued.” She has a passion for nature and loves to garden. She is also an avid “upcycler,” and delights in turning what she calls “junk treasures” into new and exciting things.

Anita’s interest in the natural world is what led her to connect with the Elms Environmental Education Center, where she will be serving this year as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. Anita recounts her first conversation with her now-Site Supervisor at the Elms, in which Anita heard about her position and “couldn’t help saying, “you’re working my dream job.””  Formerly an Ergonomics Consultant, Anita had been looking for an opportunity to stay closer to home and make a difference in the environment. She is excited to renew her studies of biology, botany and environmental science and says she hopes to “enhance my teaching abilities” and “engage others in the exciting world of nature and help them want to be more environmentally conscious.”

Preserving and teaching others about nature is more than a job for Anita, it’s a lifestyle. She says that she is “most relaxed in the woods and mountains” and this is where she feels most “authentic.” During her year with Volunteer Maryland, Anita is excited to interact with environmental education everyday, which will help her in her “quest for knowledge in this field.” She says, “I believed this was my chance to give that nature-oriented career I had longed for many years ago a shot.”

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Julie Arbit, Carroll County Forestry Board

IMG_1656A recent graduate of the University of Michigan, Julie Arbit has a passion for forest ecology. She first developed this interest in environmental studies by volunteering with the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organization, which introduced her to the world of sustainable food systems and led to an internship in Sobral Pichorro, Portugal where she worked on a rural restoration project on a terraced mountain.

Julie will bring this experience, along with her dual degrees in Environmental Science and Cognitive Science to the Carroll County Forestry Board and Piney Run Park as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. “My position with Volunteer Maryland allows me to combine the familiarity I have within forest ecology with new territory of stewardship and education,” Julie shares, adding that she wanted to “spend a few years in national service to further dissect my interests within the realm of sustainability and environmental restoration” before returning to school  in this field. Julie would ultimately like to pursue a career involving ecological field work and research in the Mid-Atlantic region.

When she’s not working to save the trees, Julie is playing bridge. “I have earned a spot on a number of teams invited to travel nationally and internationally to compete in a variety of events,” Julie tells us. “My most recent claim to fame is a bronze medal from the World Youth Open Championship in Opatija, Croatia.” Accompanying Julie on many of these trips are her two kittens, Aemon and Lilah, who “adore travelling” and have become “proud mascots within the bridge world.”

A New AmeriCorps Year

IMG_20151020_084129A new service year smells like fresh paint.

It looks like an empty desk.

It feels like putting on a new Volunteer Maryland T-shirt for the first time.

My new Volunteer Maryland T-shirt is pristine. It sits on my desk reminding me of the identical shirt that I received about this time last year when I began my term as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.IMG_20151020_084919

That shirt saw me through my first and last debate tournaments as the VMC for the Baltimore Urban Debate League. It saw the first debate judge training I facilitated and the beaming faces of middle schoolers as they received medals and trophies. It proudly bears the stains of cucumber soil and wheelbarrow grime, the dirt having been ground into it at a service project last summer on the Eastern Shore, the wheelbarrow gunk from volunteering at a fellow VMC’s site. It connected me to Volunteer Maryland whenever I wore it, and it gave me an extra boost of confidence and determination whenever I remembered I had it on.

When I think about this upcoming service year my mind races to the new things I will see and do with my fellow AmeriCorps members and what sorts of marks we will make, both on Maryland and on our VM gear. I want to see this new shirt splashed with the water of the Chesapeake and the snot of eager kindergartners. I want it to be muddied on a farm and dressed up with a jacket for a professional luncheon. I want it to see people and places all throughout the state being impacted by the hard work and passion of this new class of Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. I want my shirt to see challenges and successes, great days and bad.

This service year is my shiny new Volunteer Maryland T-shirt, and it can’t wait to be worn in.