Story last updated at 9/9/2009 - 11:36 am
I signed up for an AmeriCorps term of service partly as my internship to finish up my degree in Outdoor Recreation, Leadership and Management, but also to get hands on experience doing something in my field. I serve at SAGA's Eagle Valley Center (the EVC, as we like to call it).
I think my AmeriCorps experience is unique in the fact that I live at the EVC, which is just past mile 24 down by Amalga Harbor. The EVC offers experiential education, low and high ropes course activities and programs which promote teamwork, communication and leadership.
Additionally, during the summer we work with a YMCA camp that sends up single gender groups from the lower 48 for three weeks at a time. With these groups we hike the Chilkoot Trail, kayak in Port Frederick from Hoonah down to Tenakee Springs, and spend time in Juneau to explore the city and go ice climbing on the Mendenhall Glacier.
I just recently completed my last three week trip with 11 girls, and I am loving my job more than ever. I feel that I have finally found what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to work outside with young people and teach them things they won't learn in school. I like the sense of community and strength you develop as you leave behind the complicated things in life in order to live simply with only what you can carry on your back or in your kayak. I feel that these experiences help to sort out what is really important in life and where your priorities really need to be.
My time here in Alaska it has been a complicated process of adapting to a completely different way of life. I felt incredibly isolated when I first got here. However, over the past seven months I have met some of the most generous and kind people who truly value their community. I feel like my time in Alaska has been a huge adventure spent collecting local people's stories and figuring out where I fit in this new place. I met a woman who had hiked the Chilkoot 15 times; a couple who lived outside of Hoonah invited us over for a feast of Halibut cheeks; some young men who were building a Swiss Family Robinson sized tree house - among having other strange and fantastic adventures.
It really feels like I'm collecting the stories of interesting people to help find my own little niche within the community of Juneau, as well as getting to know Alaska in general. I must say that during my time as a college student, I never really felt like I belonged to my community, or had any special role to play while living there. Spending a year in Juneau serving for AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to find my niche and finally gain a sense of belonging and ownership in my community, while, of course, "getting stuff done."
Christa Shier is an AmeriCorps volunteer serving at SAGA's Eagle Valley Center in Juneau.