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Celebrating AmeriCorps Week!

March 7-14 is AmeriCorps Week, and to celebrate we’re highlighting all of the new AmeriCorps Members that joined Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation in February!

Andrea Lesperance, our new Wetland Restoration Outreach Coordinator VISTA, is from the Chicagoland area. What piqued her interest in the Parks Foundation was how we intersect environmentalism with health and wellness. After serving in AmeriCorps, she would like to continue promoting sustainability in the nonprofit sector! One day, Andrea dreams of opening her own fitness studio.

Ben Parry-Lemon, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, is from the small farming town of Columbia City, Indiana. He is excited to be a part of the wildlife and vegetation surveys in the wetland. Ben is also looking forward to exploring hiking spots in the greater Reno area and local restaurants.

Chris Garrity, our new Nature Study Area Development Coordinator VISTA, is originally from the Washington D.C. area, specifically Bethesda, Maryland. He is most excited to be working on fundraising efforts needed to restore the wetland habitat at the Proposed Nature Study Area. On Chris’s Reno bucket list is to climb Mt. Rose. He joined the Parks Foundation to serve with a group of like-minded individuals towards making a difference in the community, to develop skills necessary for a career in the non-profit space, and to contribute towards the conservation and restoration of a thriving wetland habitat. Fun fact: Chris is a triplet! His dream job is to be a part-time professional surfer and a part-time Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme.

Elizabeth Ott-Bales, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, grew up in Danville, California but moved to Reno last Fall. On her Reno bucket list is to go floating down the Truckee River. Elizabeth joined the Parks foundation because she had been searching for a company/non-profit in the Environmental Rehabilitation industry and is excited to help Alex (our AmeriCorps Parks Project Coordinator) with the Parks Project and the creation of a city parks database. Elizabeth’s dream job is to be a National Park Ranger.

Ethan Lopes, one of our new Naturalist Educators, lives in the Nevada State capital: Carson City. Ethan is looking forward to helping host the Summer Science camp where science enthusiasts of all ages get to share their passion for the outdoors. Ethan joined the Parks Foundation to increase public interest in STEAM. Through implementing interactive hands-on learning activities, Ethan would like to show that STEAM is both accessible and attainable for students of all backgrounds. Fun Fact: Ethan is the proud owner of approximately 300 different rubber ducks. After finishing graduate school, Ethan plans to work at a national lab as a geophysicist.

Jacqui Keating, our new Programs and Events Coordinator VISTA, is originally from Vermont and has lived in the Tahoe/Truckee region for 11 years. Jacqui is looking forward to implementing Parks Foundation programs in collaboration with Artown this July! She cannot wait to help enhance outdoor activities while learning about different cultures through art expression and joined the Parks Foundation so that she could have the chance to give back to her community by increasing access to nature for all community members.

James Hada, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, is from Des Moines, Iowa. James hopes to see improvement in species composition and diversity as the restoration process progresses and is excited to conduct bird and vegetation surveys. Fun Fact from James: Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) are so fast because they evolved in the late Pleistocene era alongside an extinct relative of the cheetah.

Leela Ruiz, one of our Naturalist Educators, is excited to serve at the kids’ camps for spring break and summer. Leela hopes to encourage young girls to partake in science activities by leading by example. Leela believes that the Parks Foundation plays an important role in community engagement and is excited to not only be a part of that community, but to also encourage friends and family to partake in all the activities that we have to offer. Leela hopes to stay in Reno and work for agencies similar to the Parks Foundation to explore the community through a different lens, saying: “I have already learned so much about Reno from TMPF, although I have lived in Reno my entire life!”

Nicole Rovai, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, is from Rocklin, California and went to Rocklin High School. She has always wanted to become involved with a nonprofit organization and found herself aligning with the Parks Foundation’s mission and drive to make a positive difference in the community. She is thrilled to be a part of the new Proposed Nature Study Area in the Reno/Sparks area and thinks it is vital for there to be more accessible outdoor areas for the community to be able to utilize. Nicole knows the wetland will be a great location for people to take advantage of getting outside while having the opportunity to learn and appreciate the local environment.

Peter Jordan, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, is from Malvern, PA. Peter is looking forward to invasive species removal and grant research assistance. Some things on Peter’s Reno bucket list are to win a large pot of money at the casinos and hike all the amazing locations surrounding the city. Fun Fact: Peter has swam in the Rhine. After serving in AmeriCorps with the Parks Foundation, Peter plans to go back to school to become certified in GIS work. Peter’s dream job is to become an environmental consultant for a company that works to improve water quality in the local watershed, and even plans to start a solar company.

Rachel Carroll, our new Communications Coordinator VISTA, joined the Parks Foundation for two main reasons: 1. She loves helping the community, finding fulfillment in sharing both personal knowledge and the knowledge of local non-profits with the community so they can benefit from it as well. 2. She loves our parks! Having been in the area for so long, she has been to many of the local parks and the variety among them is not only refreshing, but she also feels it's a great asset to the community. Fun fact: Rachel owns a small online business called Arti's Chokes, selling handmade chokers and necklaces. Rachel’s dream job is to work for NASA, and is excited to see how experience with TMPF and the VISTA program will help achieve that dream.

Ryan Turner, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, searched for AmeriCorps opportunities in order to give back to the local and national community as Ryan believes civil service is important for all people to participate in, but oftentimes service is only described as military. Ryan believes it is fortunate this program allows young people to provide a real lasting impact that will positively contribute to the community long after we leave. During free time, Ryan is planning an on-river trip down the Truckee River, starting in Tahoe City and finishing in Pyramid Lake. Ryan’s goal is to document the trip, and produce an ethnography on the history, native use, ecology, current use (i.e. parks and programs!), and planned use of the watershed. Ryan’s ultimate dream job is to be a Conservation Ranger with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. Even if that doesn't work out, Ryan’s goals involve working in the field of ecology, performing research, and leaving a positive legacy for environments and organisms that need people to fight and work for them because they can't do it themselves.

Sadie Smith, one of our new Wetland Restoration Technicians, is from Montgomery in Northern Vermont, but attended college in Florida. Sadie is very excited to begin invasive species removal and control. On Sadie’s Reno bucket list is to fish in and camp around Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River in the summer when it gets warmer. Sadie joined Parks Foundation because Sadie is passionate about helping the environment and finding ways to help people learn more about the natural world. Getting to help develop a nature study area where people can come and enjoy the outdoors as much as Sadie has is very fulfilling, especially so soon out of college. Fun Facts: Sadie used to mush sled dogs back in Vermont and played rugby for years. Sadie’s dream job would be to own an Exotic Animal Rescue in Florida so people have somewhere to bring their pets instead of releasing them in the Everglades.

Samantha Orahood, our new Health and Wellness Education Coordinator VISTA, is excited to incorporate whole-person wellness into the current and future activities that TMPF provides. Fun fact from Samantha: the largest known living organism on earth is a honey mushroom located in Oregon. After serving with AmeriCorps, she would like to attend graduate school for eco-therapy and one of her dream jobs is being an end of life doula.

Sara Monks, our new VISTA Leader, is from Chicago, Illinois. Sara is excited to get involved with any and all projects she possibly can with the Parks Foundation! Anything from invasive species removal to guiding hikes to wellness trainings, she is eager to become involved any way she can. On her Reno bucket list is to attend the Great Reno Balloon Race. She has never seen a hot air balloon in person and has always wanted to, so she is really excited to be able to attend such a unique event!

Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation would like to thank all of our new AmeriCorps members, and all AmeriCorps members for their commitment to service and the Parks Foundation mission! Happy AmeriCorps Week!


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