In celebration of AmeriCorps Week, Volunteer Florida is turning the spotlight on LeaderCorps, a program designed to increase awareness of the impact of AmeriCorps through community dialogue and civic engagement.
Volunteer Florida’s current LeaderCorps cohort is comprised of about 20 active AmeriCorps members who are responsible for participating in leadership training, executing local service projects and serving as ambassadors for Florida’s AmeriCorps programs. The group is led by two co-chairs – they model expectations and act as mentors for their fellow LeaderCorps members.
Ryder Hochmuth is a one of the co-chairs and an AmeriCorps member with the Florida Conservation Corps, a division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Here’s what he had to say about his experience:
Why did you join AmeriCorps?
I joined AmeriCorps to get my proverbial foot in the door of the environmental field right out of college. I was also looking to take some time away from school, but still work in my field of study, as I ultimately want to pursue a Master’s degree. AmeriCorps seemed like the perfect fit, allowing me to get hands-on experience in the field, while earning the Segal Education Award at the end of my year of service. When I leave AmeriCorps, I will do so with valuable experience in the field and a financial boost towards furthering my education.
What do you do as an AmeriCorps member with the Florida Conservation Corps?
I have held two positions now with the Florida Conservation Corps (FLCC). Last term, I was the Regional Outreach and Awareness Recruiter for all the State Parks in Southwest Florida. In this role, I was involved in volunteer recruitment, public outreach programs and event facilitation. This term, I am part of the Trail Restoration and Enhancement Corps trail crew. We are a nine-person team that travels to different Florida State Parks around the state to provide needed trail creation and enhancement projects.
Why do you enjoy serving with an environmental program?
Every day, while driving into the park, I get transported back in time; away from the developed world and into “real Florida.” During my time in this program, I have participated in projects that have allowed me to actually see the difference I am making in parks, local communities and the state. Whether it is going out and removing invasive plants that have taken over a plot of land, building a new trail to create greater access to other important ecosystems in the park, or having a moment with a member of the public when they start to understand why we are preserving our natural and cultural resources. I have gained valuable experience in my field of study that I would not have been able to find elsewhere.
How has service impacted your life?
I have fallen in love with service. Since joining AmeriCorps, I have met so many wonderful individuals and organizations that would give everything they have to better their communities. This has had a positive impact on me and given me a standard to live by during my term and beyond. I want to give my communities as much as I possibly can so that they are better off when I leave than when I started. I always want to give more and feel that my heart is truly in national service.
Is there anything else you want to add?
My time in AmeriCorps has given me so many new personal and professional contacts. I have met some people that I will share a bond with the rest of my life, and I know that we can always depend on one another. I have also been able to work with amazing people from different organizations and fields that I will be able to use as contacts in the future. I wouldn’t trade my time in AmeriCorps for any other experience.