Clinch-Powell’s Appalachia CARES program has been partnering with Tennessee State Parks since 2013 to place more than 160 AmeriCorps members across the state. Nancy Dorman, Program Services Manager in the Division of Interpretive Programs and Education, has been our go-to contact at the state level, and has been a tremendous asset to maintaining and strengthening this partnership.
There are 56 state parks in Tennessee, with the mission of preserving and protecting the unique natural, cultural and historic resources of our state. To carry out this mission, parks must be equipped not only with the resources themselves, but the people that will interpret those resources and make them accessible for the public. The Tennessee State Parks Division of Interpretive Programs and Education is tasked with making this happen. This department provides high-quality, entry-level work experiences for people who are interested in conservation, interpretation and parks-related fields, as well as ensuring quality programs and experiences are provided for park visitors.
Networking at a career fair in 2012, Appalachia CARES staff made a connection with Tennessee State Parks staff and realized an AmeriCorps partnership was the perfect fit! From placing 14 members in 2013, the partnership has grown to more than 40 placements in the current grant year. In these positions, members engage citizens in a variety of programming and recreation, with a focus on Energy Efficiency and Environmental Conservation Education. Nancy says the members are implementing projects that “focus on environmental education to help people see both their energy impact of their choices and expose them to conservation actions that they can take on their own.”
AmeriCorps members are also benefitting greatly from this foot-in-the-door experience, learning to become educational facilitators, leaders and champions for natural resources. In fact, since 2013, 10 Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps Alums have gone into full time employment with Tennessee State Parks! Six of these have become park rangers, now supervising and mentoring current AmeriCorps members from the unique perspective of having been in their shoes. The other alums are working in marketing, conservation, and the Tennessee State Parks Environmental Literacy initiative.
When asked why this partnership is important, Nancy said, “The folks who participate in the AmeriCorps program are very grateful for the opportunity. And this feeling in mutual. The full time staff are very grateful to have the AmeriCorps members to lend that extra helping hand.”