When college graduation began to approach, Puyallup native Elena Bary began exploring opportunities that would allow her to travel and weren’t the typical career job right off the bat.
“I considered many programs including Teach for America, PeaceCorp and AmeriCorps VISTA,” she said.
A friend of hers was formerly in Americorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), and told Bary how much she enjoyed the experience. Having never heard of the program, Bary began to research it, and eventually applied.
“I found that AmeriCorps NCCC sounded the most interesting,” she said. “It allows me to be active, work outside, travel to different places around the country I would not explore by myself, and be able to help others.”
Having studied environmental science prior to her graduation from Western Washington University in December, the Americorps NCCC program combined all of the 23-year-old’s passion into the perfect post-college experience.
“I am interested in environmental education and toxicology,” she said. “I love nature and found that this major melded my interest in science and wanting to gain more hands-on knowledge of the world around us.”
Now that Bary is a corps member, she will spend the next 10 months at the AmeriCorps NCCC Atlantic Region’s 21st Class working on a variety of projects focusing on environmental stewardship, infrastructure improvement, urban and rural development, energy conservation and disaster relief.
Bary began her 10-month stint in February and will graduate Nov. 10 from the NCCC. She will be awarded $5,730, which she can use to continue her education or pay back her student loans.
Currently, she is working with a nonprofit in Baltimore called Blue Water Baltimore, which focuses on planting trees. Bary is working to get trees and plants ready for the spring planting season.
Americorp NCCC members also have an opportunity to work in wildland firefighting. Last week, Bary went through training to become a certified Type 2 wildland firefighter through the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Bary’s Americorp NCCC stint ends in November, and she’s currently developing her plan for what is next.
“I would like to get a job where I can work outside, potentially with an environmental nonprofit,” the Puyallup High grad said. “Ideally, I would love to return to western Washington.”
Most importantly about her type as a NCCC member, Bary hopes to use her experience working with other volunteers to her advantage.
“It confirms that after I finish with NCCC that I want to work with a conservation or environmental not-for-profit doing environmental education or being a volunteer coordinator,” she said. “Even though community service is usually hard work, I think it is important to give others the opportunity to others and the environment.”