Service year 2013-2014

For the 2013-2014 program year, twenty-eight Minnesota GreenCorps members served at host sites around the state.

GreenCorps projects included energy conservation, waste prevention and recycling, living green outreach, and green infrastructure.

PDF icon Minnesota GreenCorps: Project Summaries: Program Year 2013-2014


Minnesota GreenCorps members from service year 2013-2014


Featured profiles. GreenCorps members have interesting tales to tell even before they serve. Here are a few features that introduce who they are, what they do, and why they are serving as GreenCorps members.

2013: Member - Mariella Ojeda

About me. I was born and raised in the Twin Cities, and have lived here the majority of my life. I attended Hamline University (Saint Paul) with a major in Environmental Studies, a concentration in Physics, and a minor in Art History. Throughout my college career, I was involved in various organizations related to the environmental field, community service, and social justice. I currently live in Saint Paul, where I enjoy reading, drawing, music, spending time with family and friends, and catching up on my "stories!"

About my service. I serve as a Living Green member at the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in south Minneapolis. LEDC is a membership-based non-profit organization committed to providing better economic opportunities for Latinos in Minnesota, especially those interested in starting their own businesses. My specific responsibilities for LEDC's Green Initiative include providing direct outreach and technical assistance to Latino business owners in regards to environmental issues and green business practices; connecting them to resources to improve energy performance of their facilities; assisting them to communicate with customers about the importance of environmental issues and how to address them; and collecting and analyzing data on the impacts of LEDC’s Green Initiative.

Why I serve. I like to meet new people, hear their stories, and connect with them on common interests and passions. Coming from a very diverse background, including Mexican cultural ties, this position gives me the perfect opportunity to not only mix my stories with those of the Latino community in the Twin Cities metro, but also to help improve energy efficiency and sustainability. It's a beautiful thing to see people look outside of themselves and into the entire welfare of their community and environment.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Since I live across from the fairgrounds, my favorite place to visit is the State Fair! Pronto pups are the BEST! Valleyfair is a close second.

2013: Member - Melinda Kawalek

About me. I graduated in 2013 from the University of Minnesota – Morris with majors in environmental studies and political science and a minor in French. In addition to my interest in environmental work, I enjoy canoeing, cooking, baking, canning, trading-card games like Magic the Gathering, video games, and table-top RPGs.

About my service. As a living green member, my workplan allows me to work on several broad issue areas, including waste prevention and recycling, energy and water conservation, and urban forestry. My goals are to increase the recycling rate, decrease plastic bag litter, install energy- and water-saving devices in community hotels and apartments, increase the number of Marshall GreenStep Businesses, and help Marshall to become a Tree City USA. I have done additional work updating the city's B3 database, which tracks the energy and water use for public buildings, so that opportunities to retrofit buildings can be identified. Through my service, I will be partnering with the GreenStep Committee, Marshall Public Schools, Southwest Minnesota State University, the City of Marshall offices (including the Community Services and Public Works Departments), Lyon County Public Works, Marshall Municipal Utilities, and local businesses).

Why I serve. I am lucky to have been instilled with the value of environmental protection at a young age, and I chose my college majors to reflect this. While in college, I was exposed to the GreenCorps program during my first job publicizing a solar-thermal installation through the Center for Small Towns. The GreenCorps members on campus did very impressive work, and I set a goal to someday join them.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

2013: Member - Joan Van Grinsven

About me. I am originally from Appleton, Wis. I graduated from the College of St. Benedict (St. Joseph, Minn.) with a degree in environmental studies along with a minor in music. Between my junior and senior years of college, I was the animal care and education intern at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn. In my free time I enjoy playing the flute, spending time in the outdoors, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

About my service. I am an Energy Conservation corps member hosted by the city of Lake Crystal. My main goals during my service are tracking energy use in the city's public buildings and finding ways to reduce their energy loads using the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking program. I will also be helping the city continue their progress with the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program by organizing efforts to reduce energy use throughout the community. These efforts include school presentations, creating quarterly energy conservation newsletters, working with the city and local school district to implement more energy-efficient practices, and increasing community participation in the city's available Conservation Improvement Programs (CIP) initiatives.

Why I serve. I was part of a community service organization throughout college which helped me recognize my passion for the work. The Minnesota GreenCorps was the perfect way to meld my passions of environmental issues and serving my community, while at the same time allowing me to return to the beautiful state of Minnesota. My service will also help me gain experience and insight into working in conservation and the public sector, further preparing me for a career in environmental work.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Anywhere on the North Shore, especially the state parks and Grand Marais.

2013: Member - Maria DeLaundreau

Maria DLaundreau

About me. I recently graduated from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wis.) where I majored in biology, with a focus on plant ecology, and minored in environmental studies and Spanish. While I was a student at Lawrence I interned for two summers with Audubon doing conservation-focused outreach aimed at helping private landowners fully appreciate the ecological value of their bottomland forests, and working with them to develop bottomland forest management plans. I am excited to be back in my hometown of Saint Paul and appreciate the opportunity to work on supporting the bottomland forests here in the Twin Cities.

About my service. I am a Green Infrastructure Member hosted by the Mississippi River Fund, the non-profit partner of the Park Service's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA). My main focus is investigating what we can do to restore cottonwood trees to the floodplain of the MNRRA. This area has old cottonwood trees, but no young seedlings or saplings. This is a problem because cottonwood trees actually restructure the floodplain by reducing erosion, enhancing aquatic habitat, and facilitating the growth of floodplain forests. By planting young cottonwoods we will be able to benefit from this species well into the future.

Why I serve. I have always valued community service and involvement. I am also passionate about ecology and the environment, so serving with Minnesota GreenCorps was a perfect fit for me. Through GreenCorps I get to immerse myself in the local environmental scene, learn more about what needs to be done, acquire the skills and connections necessary to address those needs, and then actually make a difference.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. The north shore. In Duluth, I enjoy hearing the warning sounds alerting you that the Lift Bridge is in action and watching the huge freighters slide through the water arriving from or going to destinations around the world. I also love sailing on Lake Superior, preferably to the different parks on the north shore. This whole area just gives you an incredible appreciation for nature and the outdoors.

2013: Member - Kirstin Taggart

About me. Growing up in a small, rural town of central Minnesota, I was introduced to the outdoors at a very young age. Seeking adventure and more opportunities, I attended the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities to earn my degree in Urban Studies and Sustainability. I enjoy hiking, reading, thrill-seeking and being engaged in my community. Seeing an inherent value in nature is what truly drives my life outside of the formal workplace.

About my service. As a Green Infrastructure – Urban Forestry – member with the city of Hutchinson, I am working to develop species diversification projects for all boulevard trees in the city. The diversification projects are determined by the percentage of species within designated areas of the city. With the threat of emerald ash borer fast approaching, ash trees are the primary target for removal and replacement over the next 10-15 years. Further, public outreach and education on the importance and benefits of a sustainable urban forest are essential to my GreenCorps project.

Why I serve. I believe that in order to build a sustainable Minnesota, we must start locally in our cities and towns. Building local hubs of sustainable economical, political and social activity in towns across Minnesota can then extend into surrounding states. We must think locally in order to protect the environment. Therefore, I choose to serve as a GreenCorps member to give back to the communities of Minnesota so that our state can become the template for sustainability and resiliency.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. What almost seems like the edge of the earth — the North Shore. I enjoy the beauty of the Superior Hiking Trail that runs along the northeastern boundary of Minnesota. There is always something to discover in the thick deciduous and coniferous forests that line the Superior Trail.

2013: Member - Allison Sawyer

About me. I grew up in Forest Lake, but wound up in Waterloo, Ontario, where I got my degree in Geography & Environmental Management with a minor in International Development. My interests include sustainable development, tennis, painting, watching too much television, and music.

About my service. A large chunk of my service with St. Louis County Environmental Services Department involves helping St. Louis County schools to improve or launch recycling programs. Cartons are being added to the recycling stream this school year, so I will be providing education and technical assistance to schools while hopefully avoiding as much spilled milk as possible. I'm also working on increasing recycling at local events, helping local businesses and institutions to cut back on paper use, and setting the wheels in motion for a school supply reuse program on the Iron Range.

Why I serve. Coming out of school I was pretty exhausted from the academic setting and was ready to put my degree into action with some practical work experience. Not only does Minnesota GreenCorps provide that experience, but I get to improve Minnesota's environment by teaching others about environmental stewardship and learning to become a better environmental steward myself—your classic win-win-win situation.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. I’ve got a soft spot for Taylors Falls. Growing up it was always a go-to location for a day trip filled with hiking, picnicking, or floating down the St. Croix River.

2013: Member - Taylor Hays

About me. I grew up in Hastings and attended the University of Minnesota - Morris where I fell in love with the environment. I learned that there were a lot of important issues surrounding the environment and felt a sense of urgency at needing to be a part of the solutions. I graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Anthropology. I then worked for one summer as a crew leader with Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa and lived in Minnesota state parks all summer, hanging out with youth, living in tents and cooking our meals over a camp stove. It was a fantastic experience! I love to be outdoors, to learn new things, and to teach others what I've learned!

About my service. I am serving Carver County as a Waste Prevention and Recycling GreenCorps Member. My first task this service term is working with around five schools to improve or implement a recycling and organics composting program within their school. This means tracking pre-and-post implementation waste data, setting up bins, and (my favorite part) educating students and staff in the school about why our waste is so important, and what we can do with it to make it useful. My next two tasks will start up more in the spring and summer – first, I will be working with Carver County Parks to establish similar programs within the parks system; at campgrounds, beaches and dog parks. Secondly, I’ll be working with the county to determine the best way to reduce waste at county events (such as the County Fair), turning these community events into low-waste gatherings called Green Gatherings.

Why I serve. I originally wanted to be a GreenCorps member because it was directly related to my field of study, which is rare for someone just getting out of college! I also feel that I am obligated to serve (and do so gladly) simply because I have the ability to. Since starting my service, GreenCorps has been great in helping me develop professional skills, communicate proficiently, and to get a good feel for what life is like in the professional environmental field.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Gooseberry Falls State Park. I spent three weeks up there with a crew this summer, tenting 15 feet from the shore of Lake Superior. Additionally, Shovel Point up on the North Shore has the most amazing sunrise! Lake Superior is just so neat – there is so much history and so much to see!

2013: Member - Katelyn Larsen

About me. I first became interested in environmental issues after taking a few classes in college. Of course, I was always a fan of nature and being outside, but I didn’t start to really care about the world I was living in until college. After taking a few courses that discussed water rights and other environmental issues, I decided to pick up an environmental studies minor to fully engage myself in the subject. I traveled to Yellowstone National Park with a group of students from an environmental policy class, and that further solidified my interest in environmental policy. However, I wasn’t satisfied by only getting a minor in environmental studies. I wanted more. Much more. So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in the subject, focusing on policy and planning. This path of life took me all the way up to Bemidji, where I met lots of other students and faculty passionate about the environment. It also led me to my current position as a GreenCorps member, which has been completely satisfying thus far.

About my service. I serve for the Recycling Association of Minnesota, which is an organization dedicated to promoting resource conservation through waste prevention, reuse, recycling, composting, and purchasing practices. During my project term, my main focus is on making carton recycling possible in Becker, Douglas, and Otter Tail counties. Within these counties, there are several interested schools and organizations wanting to recycle cartons, but the infrastructure in their areas is not currently set up. Within the target area, there are a few schools and businesses that have Waste Management as their hauler, so their recycling is already going to the metro area, which already has the infrastructure set up to recycle cartons. Although I will be helping to ensure the entire target area receives the infrastructure for carton recycling, I will be focusing on the schools and businesses that already have infrastructure in place. In addition to helping organizations with carton recycling, I am also working on education and outreach for Minnesota.

Why I serve. I joined the Minnesota GreenCorps in order to gain experience in the environmental field and network with professionals. After completing my master’s degree,one of my thesis committee members recommended that I look into the GreenCorps program, especially since my thesis was on the topic of waste prevention and recycling, a core area of the program. After researching what the GreenCorps program was about, I decided it sounded like a great way to gain experience in the field and network with professionals in the field. I’m hoping that by serving in this program, it will open some doors for future job opportunities.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Dorset. If you haven’t heard of Dorset, Minn., I’m not surprised. It’s a small town halfway between Park Rapids and Nevis and only operates during the tourist season. Even though it shuts down for the majority of the year, it’s always full of people when the businesses are open. Known as the restaurant capital of the world, it’s home to one of my favorite restaurants: La Pasta. When I was attending school in Bemidji, I would frequently bring people down to Dorset or meet people there just to go to La Pasta. In northern Minnesota, Italian food doesn’t get much better than that. Not to mention that the town was run by Bobby Tufts, the world’s cutest three-year-old mayor for a year. Between La Pasta, the unique mayoral race, and some of Minnesota’s finest ice cream, it doesn’t get much better than a summer afternoon spent in Dorset.

2013: Member - Jothsna Harris

About me. I graduated from the University of Saint Thomas, in 2001, with a B.A. in both Environmental Studies and Political Science. Since then I have been working in Higher Education with 6 years as a Financial Aid Professional. However, for the last several years I have dreamed of returning to my area of study as an undergraduate. In 2011 I had the unique experience of traveling with my husband and two children (3 and 6 years old at the time) for four months in Italy through the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) Organization. We worked on two organic farms to learn and help improve sustainable agriculture practices. The experience helped me realize it would be rewarding and worthwhile to follow my passion and transition into an environmental career. I am committed to pursuing a career transition by seeking out opportunities to grow and develop as an environmental professional. As a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer, I have been able to serve in my community in a diverse range of opportunities while gaining valuable skills in the field. I am also currently working towards Master’s degree in the area of Innovation and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota.

About my service. I am excited to serve this year as Minnesota GreenCorps Energy Conservation Member in the Burnsville Independent School District 191. My assignment is to create measureable energy savings in the District through a combination of data analysis, partnering with facilities to identify solutions and also working with the students, staff and faculty to create energy education opportunities. Working with the school community provides a unique opportunity to tap into the wonderful energy of kids and the knowledge of the staff and teachers. I hope to learn about their ideas, inspire collaboration, while helping to create a meaningful and lasting impact.

Why I serve. Serving in the Greencorps is exactly the type of environmental experience I have been hoping to be involved in. Particularly, I am attracted to the strong collaboration between Greencorps members and host sites. I believe such partnerships will be essential for communities to work towards a long-term vision of becoming sustainable and resilient. I am confident that being in a member position with GreenCorps is an excellent opportunity not only to gain valuable training and experience, but also to make as significant an impact in my community as possible.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Ely – YMCA Camp Du Nord is a beautiful, magical place any time of year and is a favorite for our family.

2013: Member - Lauren Sampedro

About me. I attended the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities where I earned a degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in water and a minor in biology. Throughout college I have had jobs related to preserving and improving water quality, such as working for the DNR to prevent aquatic invasive species, working for the U of M on a graduate student's research project about groundwater in rural areas, volunteered with the water quality department at Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and I had a water quality monitoring internship with the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District. This year, I am happy to be involved with MN GreenCorps to further my interest and experience in environmental work

About my service. With the MN GreenCorps, I am currently a Green Infrastructure-Stormwater track service member at the Freshwater Society. My main projects involve a newly implemented program called the Master Water Stewards Program that educates citizens on stormwater runoff, and trains those citizens in the program how to manage stormwater runoff. With this program I help the Master Water Stewards install stormwater pollution prevention projects like raingardens, I help plan for these stormwater install events and help plan the stewards' outreach projects that are aimed to get neighbor involvement, I create materials for the stewards to use and hand out for mobilizing their neighbors, I help keep the media up-to-date to spread the word on water quality and Master Water Steward Projects, I will become a Master Water Steward myself and will help establish criteria for bmp assessments, inspect bmps to make sure they are maintained, be involved in reporting how this program has influenced behavior in areas where stewards are located and work with Macalester students on that reporting, and I will also install a bmp project myself and conduct an educational outreach project as a Master Water Steward.

Why I serve. I serve with the MN GreenCorps so that I can have a direct impact on environmental issues in communities. I have always been passionate about environmental issues, especially related to water quality, and serving is allowing me the opportunity to voice my passion to others and help influence a behavioral change towards others becoming more sustainable and adopting more environmentally friendly practices. Serving also provides me with more skills in the environmental field and networking so I can be better prepared for future environmental careers.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. The St. Croix Bluffs in Stillwater are absolutely beautiful, right on the St. Croix River. The bluffs are stunning to look at and I love being able to nerd out over the geology of the bluffs. I love how scenic the St. Croix river shoreline is and how peaceful it is, making a wonderful place to think and appreciate nature and wildlife. Places like this are a nice reminder of why it's important to preserve natural areas.

2013: Member - Susan Storck

About me. I am from St. Paul, and received a degree in horticultural science from the University of Michigan. During my studies I interned on an organic farm in Michigan, it was there I realized my passion for farming and sustainable agriculture. I also enjoy wine making, printmaking, and bike rides.

About my service. I serve as a living green-local foods member at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista. My main project is coordinating the pilot year of a farm-to-school effort between the farm and the Westonka school district. Throughout the year I hope to raise community awareness as well as increasing the amount of local produce served in the schools, number of farms involved, and number of student visits to the farm. (

Why I serve. My love for people and plants (especially veggies). Through my service I have been able to bring healthier foods to children, support local farmers, and build community.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Anywhere along the Mississippi River!

2013: Member - Megan Brant

About me. I am a Minnesota transplant, originally from Des Moines, Iowa. I graduated in the spring of 2013 from Carleton College with a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in food and agriculture. I've worked on a variety of small farms and absolutely love farming: playing in the dirt, growing delicious food, getting to interact with wonderful people, what could be better? I also love hiking, camping, traveling, insects, and synchronized swimming.

About my service. I am a Living Green Local Foods service member at the Duluth Community Garden Program. My role is to identify community need in some of the neighborhoods surrounding the gardens in order to make the gardens better serve those communities and be utilized to their fullest potential. This will involve facilitating several community meetings and conducting surveys. I also organize volunteers to work in the gardens in the fall and spring.

Why I serve. I really believe that the sustainable food movement will change the world. I think that community gardens are an important part of local food, since they have the potential to educate, beautify, and strengthen the communities in which they exist. I took this position because I want to be a part of that effort, to learn more about community gardens, to build the skills to work in the nonprofit sector, and to live in Minnesota. MN GreenCorps is the perfect opportunity for me to work for something I'm passionate about and to give back to a place that I love.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Any of the state parks along the North Shore. The Superior Hiking Trail is amazing!

2013: Member - Allison Osberg

About me. My training is in journalism and art but I have deep roots and a vested interest in environmentalism and transportation. I grew up in Excelsior, Minn., a streetcar suburb where everything I needed was in walking distance. For high school I carpooled two hours a day to Perpich Center for the Arts where I loved the school but dreaded the commute. Living a year in Normandy, France, to study animation, sculpture and art history, I experienced the glory of comprehensive transit and trains. At Hamline University where I studied international journalism and media arts, I discovered just how dependent Minnesotans are on cars and how much I didn’t want to be. For my semester abroad I studied in Zhuhai and worked in Macau, China, where the overwhelming majority of people walked, bicycled, scootered, bused or hailed Hēichē—“black cars” or illegal taxis. When I moved back, I ditched my car and now I bicycle year round in Minneapolis making art, teaching and community organizing.

About my service. As a “Living Green” member focused on air quality, I am working with the non-profit organization Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) to develop a partnership program called Transportation Options. The idea is to pair volunteer transit users and bicyclists with qualified but cash-strapped individuals and families of the same community that are interested in lessening the financial burden of owning a car but don’t know where to start. In partnering with various financial opportunity centers and empowerment organizations, we hope to make non-motor vehicle transportation options a more substantial part of the budgeting and savings conversation and therefore get more people out of their cars, saving money, getting healthy and saving our environment.

Why I serve. I’m a GreenCorps member because I want to know the work I do is meaningful and effecting change. GreenCorps does this at both micro and macro levels. Although change in air quality and improving transportation infrastructure may take years if not decades to see, I see change on a day-to-day basis when TLC cultivates authentic relationships with other organizations, individuals, volunteers and members who are inspired to imagine sustainable solutions outside our car-centric culture. I serve because even those smaller changes are immensely gratifying and I have to believe they’re leading us to greater change.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. I love all our lakes—especially Lake Pepin and Lake Superior. Someday I plan to get lost in the Boundary Waters. Did you know Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined? Amazing.

2013: Member - Alisa Hoven

2013 GreenCorps member Alisa Hoven

About me. I went to Augsburg College and earned a B.S. in Social Work. In 2008, I completed a bicycle trip along the 2,300 miles of the Mississippi River and published a book of short stories from my journey. I’ve worked with the Montana Conservation Corps as a Youth Crew Leader, helped handle sled dogs on a rustic homestead in the Northwoods and have spent the last three years leading canoe and dogsled expeditions with Voyageur Outward Bound School near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I am currently earning my Masters in Experiential Education. I have big dreams of one day starting my own educational non-profit, tying together education, food and the environment. For now, you can assuredly find me on by bicycle, writing, digging in the dirt or scheming up my next adventure.

About my service. My GreenCorps site is with Hope Community, Inc. Hope’s work includes developing accordable residential/commercial and welcoming public/community spaces, and broad community-engagement activities involving youth and adults from Hope and from the greater community. Hope’s community engagement activities range from youth mural projects, to community gardens, to entrepreneurial classes, to leader development and community organizing. My GreenCorps service will focus on community engagement and coordinating “entry point” opportunities that will increase knowledge and practice of new sustainable behaviors. I will work with community members to grow, cook and share local healthy foods; promote active living through our Bike Library program; plan and design community growing spaces; participate in a Listening Project around food and health; and develop opportunities for youth to explore our urban environments and discover their sense of place.

Why I serve. I serve because I value my community and believe that my participation and involvement is important. I want to work on environmental issues around food justice and land stewardship. GreenCorps affords an opportunity for me to jump right in and get my hands dirty, in both environmental organizing and engaging the community around sustainable practices. I hope to use the education award towards the completion of my graduate program and use the connections I make at Hope Community as nourishing roots that form the foundation in my work for the future.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. I can’t pick just one. North shore of Lake Superior, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the secret paths that lead down to the Mississippi River in south Minneapolis and the bluffs of the St. Croix River.