The Department of Environmental Protection is seeking 20 recruits for its 2016 class of AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors, a program that incorporates a grassroots desire to improve the state and its quality of life for residents.
“This excellent program helps identify New Jersey’s future environmental leaders and develops their stewardship for our resources,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “These leaders of tomorrow will be entrusted with the task of protecting New Jersey’s environment, its air and water, natural and historic resources, long after we are gone. It is great to know that talented young people will be in charge of New Jersey’s environmental future.”
Program coordinators are accepting applications through Aug. 31, 2015. The state has 20 Watershed Management Areas where an Ambassador can be placed. These host agencies include watershed associations, soil conservation districts, sewerage authorities and county agencies.
Ambassadors work with all sectors of the public to improve the quality of New Jersey’s waterways, foster community-based environmental activities, and empower state residents to make responsible and informed decisions about their watersheds.
“What is impressive about the young people who participate in the AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program is their willingness to pitch in and motivate the public to get involved in cleaning up their local waters,” said Pat Gardner, Director of the DEP’s Division of Water Monitoring and Standards, which oversees the program. “The efforts of these Watershed Ambassadors helps make the public more aware of how everyday actions impact clean water.”
Watershed Ambassadors say the program has provided them beneficial training and opportunities, and increased their respect for the environment.
Samantha Wolfe, a graduate of Kalamazoo College in Michigan who also studied in Beijing, China, said she especially enjoyed her Ambassador experience working in the Assicunk, Crosswicks and Doctors Creek watersheds.
“I hosted a volunteer monitoring training at the Tulpehaking Nature Center, with eight volunteers,” she said. “We spent many hours together. It had gone so well that I was on cloud nine at the end of the training. I’m so grateful for the time I have spent in New Jersey.”
Volunteer work has long been a staple for Jordan Foreman, who worked in the Central Delaware River watershed, but the Rutgers graduate said the Ambassador program has given him a new perspective.
“This experience was different because I realized I was also empowering others,” said Foreman, who was recently nominated by DEP staff for an Excellence in AmeriCorps Service Award.
The DEP began hosting the federal AmeriCorps program in 2000. AmeriCorps is a national service initiative that began in 1993 and is also known as the domestic Peace Corps.
Since its inception, more than 820,000 men and women have taken the AmeriCorps pledge, serving more than 1 billion hours and improving the lives of countless Americans. The organization recently announced grants for programs, nationwide. New Jersey’s Watershed Ambassadors Program will receive $260,000 in federal funding for 2016.
Ambassadors are required to complete 1,700 hours of service over 10 or 11 months. Compensation includes a pretax monthly stipend of $1,195; eligibility for health insurance benefits while serving as an Ambassador; subsidized childcare, if qualified; deferment of qualified student loans during service; and extensive training throughout the program year. In addition, members are eligible to receive an education award of $5,730 upon successful completion of the program.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a bachelor’s degree, a valid driver’s license, and must have reliable transportation to get to and from field sites.
Current Ambassadors graduated July 9 during ceremonies at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
Accomplishments by the 2015 class include:
- More than 4,737 participants/students received educational watershed demonstrations and public presentations;
- Prevention of 58 pounds of phosphorus from entering New Jersey waterways and collection/removal of more than 3 tons of debris during clean-up projects;
- Completion of more than 70 partnership projects, generating more than 2,184 volunteer hours;
- Completion of 350 visual and biological assessments;
- Training of 623 volunteers in the DEP’s visual and biological assessment protocols;
- Community cleanups of 5 miles of rivers and streams;
- Improvement of 13 acres of parks and public lands;
- Construction of 40 rain barrels through three workshops, preventing 56,000 gallons of rainwater from entering New Jersey’s stormwater systems;
- Participation as captains for Governor Christie’s Barnegat Bay Blitz initiative.
Watershed Ambassadors also played a key role in the DEP’s ongoing “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign to cut down on illegal dumping on open state lands. Working with park superintendents, the Ambassadors involved hundreds of community volunteers, municipal employees, and students from across the state in removing trash from state parks and forests.
Through their partnerships, field work and thousands of presentations, Ambassadors promoted environmental stewardship through increased public awareness of pollution caused by litter and nonpoint source pollution while also reducing nutrient sources from reaching local waters in collaboration with the DEP to improve New Jersey’s environment.
Interested applicants for the 2015-2016 program year should submit their application with references, resume and cover letter by Aug. 29 at goo.gl/LtTwJ3 or by visiting:http://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bears/americorps.htm.
For more information, please call Kathy Giordano, Program Manager or Patricia Ingelido, Supervisor at (609) 633-1441.
New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program
Division of Water Monitoring and Standards
Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards
Mail Code: 401-03
401 E. State Street, P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420
Phone: (609) 633-1441
Fax: (609) 984-6505
For more information on the DEP’s AmeriCorps New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors Program, visit:http://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bears/americorps.htm.
For more information on the AmeriCorps National Service Initiative, visit: www.americorps.gov.