As James Lafayette discovered through his GreenCorps service, having expert knowledge of a subject is one thing. Being able to explain it effectively to non-experts is quite another.
“As an Environmental Studies major in college, I was surrounded by people who had a deeper understanding of (environmental concepts), and it was very easy to communicate using language and terminology specific to environmental issues,” said James. “Once I actually started working and speaking with people outside the environmental arena, I had to learn how to explain and discuss those ideas so everyone could understand.”
James identifies this new ability as the most beneficial one that he learned during his service year. He has used it to his advantage in his current job with Tesla, where he educates customers on the benefits of electric car ownership. “GreenCorps really helped me develop the skills I now use to explain the complex technological, structural and environmental differences between electric and gas-powered vehicles,” he said.
James spent his GreenCorps year with the U.S. Green Building Council—Minnesota Chapter and the Minnesota Green Schools Coalition. He helped create sustainability plans for schools and school districts, promoted environmental education, and connected schools to professionals who could help them advance environmentally focused initiatives and projects.
A highlight, James said, was helping to pilot the ADVANCE workshop in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district. ADVANCE, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council, brought together school district staff and local experts to create a plan for the district to address sustainability concerns. “It was very rewarding to see the school staff working with the professionals from their community to create a more environmentally focused plan for the entire district,” said James.
James advises Minnesota GreenCorps members to “take advantage of every possible opportunity,” including going to conferences and presentations, participating in workshops offered, and helping with other member’s projects. “All these opportunities are harder to come by post-GreenCorps, and many jobs don’t give you the flexibility or opportunity to explore outside of your role.”
“Eleven months goes by much faster than you will expect, so get out and meet as many people as you can, try as many new things as you can, build your network, and make the most out of the resources and opportunities that GreenCorps provides.”