2017: Member - Allison Bender

2017 Minnesota GreenCorps member Allison BenderAbout me. Originally from Wisconsin, I came to Minnesota to attend St. Olaf College. I spent my summers during college working at various Minnesota and Wisconsin State Parks, and was told by a colleague this summer, “Once you start working in Parks, you never really leave.” I laughed then, but maybe it’s true—engaging communities with their public lands has become very important to me. When not at Whitewater, I can be found exploring the Driftless Region and I’m happy to discover how, along the Mississippi River near my host site, both Minnesotans and Wisconsinites commune like family.

About my service. I’m a Living Green member hosted by Whitewater State Park. The Whitewater River Valley has an incredible history of transition: within 100 years, the valley went from non-developed forests and streams, to the site of several bustling communities, back to forests again. Harmful land-use practices and devastating floods spurred conservation efforts in the area. My role is to use this story as a model for bolstering place-based watershed education in the region. I’m coordinating a teacher training to help equip educators with the resources and confidence to teach about watersheds, and I’m currently working with a traveling exhibit called We Are Water Minnesota.

Why I serve. After graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, I knew that I wanted to do something that would align with my values; I wanted to use my time to help connect people to each other and to their environments. Minnesota GreenCorps gave me that opportunity. I feel very grateful to be receiving so many opportunities to learn and meet others in the environmental field during this year of service.

My favorite place to visit in Minnesota. Buffalo River State Park. I spent a formative summer at Buffalo River living in a camper while interning after my sophomore year of college. I got pretty attached to the acres of prairie, the winding river, and the magnificent oaks and cottonwoods.