UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From disaster relief, coordinating mentorship programs and building affordable housing, members of the federal program AmeriCorps have been assisting communities across the United States for over 25 years. This program gives its members living allowances, hands-on experience and career opportunities in an effort to teach civic engagement and provide the tools for a successful future. Over 75,000 Americans are employed each year to work in a select field and location of their choosing. This year, several members chose to be with Penn State to make the University and surrounding community more sustainable.
Between August 2018 and August 2019, AmeriCorps members Ann White, Mary Lemmon, Emma Keele and Audrey McSain held unique positions within separate Penn State programs connected through the Sustainability Institute (SI). Though they had differences in expertise and ambitions, each member had a passion for sustainability.
For one year, McSain was responsible for improving the functional development of the Sustainability Experience Center, a 9.4-acre site devoted to the education of sustainability and managed by Penn State's Sustainability Institute. As the site’s coordinator, McSain organized tours, guided research, designed policies and procedures and evaluated the needs of the site. She viewed the work opportunity as a way to expand her professional experience and indulge in her passion for higher education.
“Frankly, when I applied for AmeriCorps, I did not know much about it,” said McSain. “For me, it was all about career. I knew working with the Sustainability Institute would allow me to gain hands-on experience, broaden my network, and set me apart from other applicants when applying for jobs.”
Her one year of service ended this August, leading to a transition into a new position as the sustainability program manager at Lehigh University. McSain credits her time with AmeriCorps and Penn State as a key reason for finding and acquiring the position.
“During my time at Penn State, I have gained much experience and knowledge that I will carry with me for the rest of my career,” said McSain. “My experience with AmeriCorps has been challenging at times, but absolutely worth it.”
White, Keele and Lemmon were all affiliated with the Student Farm at Penn State, a one-acre farm dedicated to providing transformative learning opportunities in sustainable agriculture and food systems.