Conservation Corps Alumni Building Careers as Trail Conference Staff

March 12, 2024
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Conservation Corps Alumni Building Careers as Trail Conference Staff


Embarking on an AmeriCorps season is “more than service to trails and parks”, it’s giving your time—full-time, for six months—to protect the environment and the public’s ability to safely enjoy it. That’s not an easy gig. But for some of our Corps members, it’s not only an incredibly rewarding experience—it’s life-changing. Our Conservation Corps program creates leaders in the environmental conservation sector and a quick look through our staff bios makes that clear.

Since the launch of our Conservation Corps, the Trail Conference has hired 11 former Corps members for staff positions. Currently, seven former Conservation Corps members work in various departments at the Trail Conference today, every one of which is committed to serving and advancing our mission. Conservation Corps staff alumni reflect on their service terms.

Kathleen Bezik, Operations & Human Resource Specialist
2019 Aquatic Invasive Strike Force Corps Member

“Moving from a big city, Philadelphia, to a cabin in the middle of the woods was a huge step but nonetheless, an opportunity I could not pass up! This was the most impactful experience I was fortunate to be a part of. It has shaped my character, career, and perspective of life and awakened me to a devoted community of like-minded individuals with the perseverance to care for the thing they love, nature. There were innumerable moments when I felt my purpose and the possibilities of life open, and I would not change this experience for anything. Living and working in nature has deepened my appreciation for the outdoors - fueled by challenges, curiosity, and a newly spirited awareness.”

Melissa Cascini, New York Program Coordinator

2019 Conservation Corps Crew Leader for the Trail Steward Outreach and Education Program

“I joined the Corps as a steppingstone in a career shift. Not only did I gain experience in the environmental field, but I had an unforgettable season working alongside other members and volunteers on some of the most beautiful trails in the Hudson Valley. Serving as the Head Trail Steward furthered my passion for the outdoors and allowed me to step into my current role as New York Program Coordinator where I have the incredible job of continuing to support and work alongside dedicated volunteers on some of the same trails that I fell in love with as a Trail Steward.”

Robert Delap, Field Trail Builder
2020 Trail Conference Conservation Trail Crew Corps Member and 2021 Trail Conference Conservation Trail Crew Leader. Both terms included winter field seasons

“After leaving my previous career to go thru-hike the AT, I came back home to New York City knowing that I wanted to get back out into the woods. After a rudderless few years figuring out what that meant, I found the Corps. It gave me an entree into a new world and trade, ones that more closely aligned with my values.”

Peter Dolan, Trail Program Manager
2013 Student Corps Association Sterling Forest Trail Crew

“As someone who grew up next to Sterling Forest but fell in love with trail construction out west, the Trail Conference Conservation Corps provided a dream opportunity to continue my passion back home. Ten years later, I feel truly blessed that my Corps service turned into that rare and special job which combines professional office work with opportunities for rugged, boots-on-the-ground time in the woods. Over the past decade it has been wonderful to see other Corpsmembers also using the program as a springboard into their own dream jobs and lifetime careers in the outdoors. These young hires will be tomorrow’s passionate advocates for trails within our land management and nonprofit partners.”

Ryan L. McClean, Ecological Stewardship Program Manager
2017 Invasives Strike Force Corps Member; 2017 Winter Trail Crew Member, 2019 Conservation Corps Invasives Strike Force Crew Leader

“Serving was a profoundly impactful experience for me. I joined the Invasives Strike Force the day after graduating college. Having been in an invasive ecology research lab during undergrade, I felt fortunate to be in my field of study, getting hands on experience with what I’m passionate about right away. Housing offered through the program gave the opportunity to live in a cabin surrounded by nature and likeminded Corps members who became lifelong friends. Multiple service terms helped build practical skills, a professional network, and reinforced that habitat management was exactly the direction I wanted to be taking my career. My life would not be the same without these experiences, and I wouldn't change a thing if I could do it all over again.”

Mike Morris, Volunteer Engagement Associate
2021 Trail Conference Conservation Trail Crew Corps Member, for all three seasons; 2022 Trail Conference Conservation Trail Crew Leader

“My service term changed my life in many ways. Aside from the obvious benefits of challenging myself with rewarding work, living communally with like-minded people, and constantly breathing fresh air, the Corps helped me pivot professionally into meaningful nonprofit work. Without my Corps experience, my life and career path would be dramatically different, and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Myra Romano, Trail Steward Program Coordinator
2020 Trail Steward Corps Member; 2021 Trail Steward Crew Leader

“My service terms were transformative experiences. I grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York and have always had a passion for hiking and spending time outdoors. Being a part of the Corps allowed me to foster meaningful connections with the public while educating them about stewardship and environmental conservation. It also provided me with invaluable experience for a fulfilling career in the field.”

AmeriCorps is a petri dish that grows new generations of outdoor leaders, and in addition to the staff who severed in our Conservation Corps, quite a number of additional staff have been nurtured by the program:  Andrew Rosenthal-Baxter, Field Trail Builder, served with the Student Conservation Association in Oregon and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in partnership with the US Forest Service;  Jennifer Zack, Charitable Gifts and Events Manager, served two terms with City Year Greater Philadelphia and as a crew leader with the Student Conservation Association; Jesse Merbler, New Jersey Program Coordinator, served with the Student Conservation Association in Southeast Alaska; Mary Perro, Chief Financial Officer, served with Colorado Vincentian Volunteers; and Tori Finn, Conservation Corps Manager, served with AmeriCorps Vista with NJ LEEP.

With recruitment for the 2024 Corps season now underway, you can make a difference in the success of this program. Apply + Make a Difference