From Eco Practicum to AmeriCorps
5 Questions for Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson participated in Eco Practicum Catskills in its pilot summer. After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in ecology and natural resources, she worked as a plant biology field technician in South Carolina. Today, Bridget is an Americorps volunteer in Montana where she's working on community garden projects in neighborhoods struggling with poverty.
What do you do and what lessons from Eco Practicum do you apply?
I am currently an Americorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) serving a community garden project for members of the low-income community in Billings, Montana. For the past year, I have been building capacity for the project by strengthening its garden management, volunteer coordination, fundraising efforts, and education programs. From Eco Practicum, I took away a stronger appreciation for small-scale agriculture and a more developed sense of social and environmental responsibility. Eco Practicum contributed to my desire to find a way to link my interests in sustainable food production and community service, which led me to Americorps.
What are the most fulfilling and most challenging parts of what you do?
The most fulfilling aspects of my Americorps service have been working with wonderful people, helping them grow their own food, and learning about the value of community. Most challenging has been the effort to ensure the sustainability of my project. The goal of VISTA is not only to make a difference in a short amount of time; it also aims to make sure that the difference is lasting and and continues to impact the people it serves. This year of volunteering has given me a deeper appreciation of many of the challenges facing nonprofits, local food production, and service work.
Describe a moment or situation that helped you realize your passion.
In college, I was fortunate enough to be able to work for a pollination ecology research lab. I helped with a particular study looking at how different agricultural land management practices influence native pollinators, particularly native wild bees. It was inspiring and humbling to learn about the vital role these creatures play in our ecosystems. It was also sobering to realize the ways in which human activity can negatively impact that crucial relationship. This experience solidified my passion for ecology. I love ecology because it forces me to see the world as a web of connections, to be more aware of my role in it, and to try to be a positive influence in that web. I hope to attend graduate school in the near future to further understand ecological connections like these and work to protect them.
What advice do you have for people looking to do meaningful work?
To some extent, “meaningful work” is subjective. It could mean farming in socially and environmentally sustainable ways. It could mean working for an organization with a mission you strongly believe in. It could mean raising children to care about treating others and their environment well. I would advise people to be curious, be critical, remain open, and discover their own definition of “meaningful” and actively pursue it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
What’s one thing you think everyone should know how to do?
I think everyone should know how to connect with his or her local community. Volunteering is one great way to do that.
We ask our network of alumni, experts, and educators to consider the state of the world and their role in it ... here's what they have to say.