PUBLISHED: 5:01 PM on Wednesday, April 23, 2008
SAGA brings in new batch of recruits
Lionel Alexander does not consider himself to be an outdoorsy person, but he will spend his entire summer working outdoors as part of the Alaska Service Corps.

Lionel, a 21-year-old from New York City, finished an AmeriCorps term of service in New Orleans, where he was cleaning up after hurricane Katrina. He enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to enroll in a second term of AmeriCorps service here in Juneau.

"I got to help people. It was a really rewarding experience. AmeriCorps just seems like such a great thing for development of youth," he said.

Erik Stimpfle photo
  Gov. Sarah Palin, far right, swears in Americorps volunteers on the front steps of the capital building last week.
Alexnader is one of 20 young adults from all over the United States who are being trained as team leaders by the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA), a local non-profit organization.

Alexander and other will serve as team leaders for two youth corps programs that will be doing work on public lands all over Alaska this summer.

The programs are the Alaska Service Corps and the Serve Alaska Youth Corps. Both youth corps programs are partially funded by a $434,000 dollar AmeriCorps grant, which SAGA receives annually from the Alaska State Community Service Commission.

"Were going to be in seven national parks, two national forests, five state parks, and all over the state for transportation projects," said Joe Parrish, SAGA executive director.

After two months of intensive training, tge team leaders will be paired into teams of two. Starting in June, SAGA plans to have a total of nine crews working on projects scheduled as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Ketchikan.

During the first two weeks of training, all of the team leaders were certified as Wilderness First Responders. They also received training on operating chainsaws and power tools, bear safety, leave no trace camping and leadership skills training. The training will culminate with five weeks of camping and hands on training using the skills they have learned.

Team leaders receive a $1200 monthly stipend to pay for living expenses and a $4725 education award, which can be used to pay for school or student loans upon completion of nine months of service.

SAGA is currently recruiting 62 young adults, between the ages 16-24, for the Serve Alaska Youth Corps and Alaska Service Corps.

These youth will form the core workers for nine crews that will be working all over Alaska. The two programs will do similar work but the Serve Alaska Youth Corps program is for young Alaskan residents, while the Alaska Service Corps will recruit young adults nationwide. In addition, The Serve Alaska Youth Corps program is looking to hire 'disconnected youth' who have been out of school or work for long periods of time.

"I feel like this is where I belong," said 27-year-old Katie Hallet from Minnesota, who was recruited to be the Field Education Coordinator for the Serve Alaska Youth Corps. "I will work with the corps members, possibly helping them with their GEDs, membership development, and working on career goals."

Hallet just finished a Masters Degree in Geophysics from the University of Minnesota. In August she will start a doctorate program in vulcanology (the study of volcanoes) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This is Hallet's second term of national service as an AmeriCorps member.

"I thought this would be a good growing experience for myself," she said. Her husband, who currently lives in Minnesota, will move to Alaska in June and begin teaching at UAF.

The work done by corps members will be physically demanding, such as: building and maintaining hiking trails, rehabilitating streams, removing invasive plant species, maintaining recreation sites, and clearing brushes from along roadsides.

Doug Blanc, a program manager with SAGA, has negotiated approximately $950,000 worth of projects for this year's field season. Project sponsors include Alaska State Parks, the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forrest Service, the Alaska Department of Transportation, and non-profit organizations in Girdwood and Skagway.

Blanc said the crews will be working in the Yakutat, Cordova, and Wrangell ranger districts for the United States Forest Service. They will work for the National Park Service in the national parks areas of: Wrangell St. Elias, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Glacier Bay, Denali, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. In addition, crews will be working all across the state for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Ryan Scanlon, 24, from Indianapolis Ind., will be a team leader for the Serve Alaska Youth Corps. He wanted to leave the Midwest and take break from studying Aeronautics at Purdue University.

"Right now, I'm at a point in my life where I really feel like I should give something back," he said. "I've had a fairly easy upbringing to this point. I think I can use some of the skills and knowledge I have and pass that on to the younger people."

Seth Davis, 26, from Hattiesburg, Miss., has a bachelors degree in Tourism Management from the University of Mississippi and experience working in wilderness programs around the U.S. Davis will be a team leader with the Alaska Service Corps and said he's dreamed of traveling to Alaska for years.

"This is my time in my life where I'm giving back to my communities, my people, and my land," he said of joining the Alaska Service Corps. "I'm not putting myself first. I'm trying to put others first."

Davis said he hopes to gain more experience leading teams in back country wilderness during his time in Alaska.

April 25 is National Youth Service Day and SAGA's AmeriCorps members will work with high school and middle school students from Juneau on city-wide projects. Those who want to volunteer to help can call Ann Marie Ellison at 790-6413.