Marie Ring has energized our Community Connections Program as this year’s AmeriCorps Member and Education Coordinator at ESLT. Her last day of her 2018-2019 service term was this weekend’s Great Sierra River Cleanup. BUT, she’ll be staying on with us for another year of service! We’re lucky to have her. Photo by Kristen Stipanov, ESLT.

Almost one year ago, I was packing my 2003 Volvo for the 3,000-mile cross-country trip from a small town in Maine to Bishop, California. At that point I couldn’t have told you anything about Bishop, other than that it seemed to be pretty remote and that it regularly reached around 100 degrees in the summer. But I was thrilled to be beginning a service term with the Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) Program. Besides, it would only be a year and then I’d be right back in Maine… or at least that was my plan at the time.

On my first day in the Sierra Nevada I was greeted by the beautiful clear turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe. I spent a week training there with my 27 SNAP peers who would also be serving in communities throughout the Sierra Nevada. My SNAP family dispersed for our individual sites at the end of the week, feeling excited and anxious for what was to come. As I cruised down the Sherwin Grade for the first time, I was welcomed by a stunning Eastern Sierra sunset; cotton candy clouds hovered behind the towering Mt. Tom, as Bishop lit up the valley below. In that moment, I knew that whatever happened, serving as the Education Coordinator at ESLT would be an amazing experience.

Eleven months later, I can say I was right. Like many of you, I’ve been captured by the magic of the Eastern Sierra. The community here is special. What makes it so special? The incredible people! The gardeners that are a part of the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project, the youth who participate in our Sunflower Garden Projects, the bakers at the local bakeries who keep us well fed on our Stewardship Days, and the volunteers who dedicate countless hours to removing fences or cleaning up trash, often in scotching heat or freezing cold. Everyone I’ve interacted with here has been amazing, and you’ve all left a lasting impression. I came here to give to the community, but the community has given so much back to me. I’ve grown so much professionally and personally and I have you all to thank for that.

Marie with students from this year’s Sunflower Garden Projects. Photo by Kristen Stipanov, ESLT.

As Education Coordinator, I was responsible for making a lot of decisions as I created lesson plans, coordinated event logistics, and more. And want to know the best decision I made? To stay another year with ESLT as the Education Coordinator. I’m looking forward to the many lessons, adventures, and challenges I know the next year will bring. Mostly, I’m looking forward to spending another year with all of the amazing people I’ve worked with this year, and I’m looking forward to building new relationships. I’ll be spending the next month back in Maine enjoying the fabulous fall colors and visiting family and friends, but I already can’t wait to return to Bishop for my second year as ESLT’s Education Coordinator.

Marie is staying with ESLT for another year of service through the AmeriCorps Sierra Nevada Partnership Program! We are grateful that she’ll continue to share her skills and joyful attitude with us and our community here on the Eastside.