“I’m excited by the opportunity to give back in an area that has contributed to my personal, individual growth,” Kristen says.
Kristen graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Arts in recreation.
She then entered a professional residency graduate program at the Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyo., in 2011 and earned a certificate in place-based teaching and environmental field science. Afterward, she attended the University of Wyoming and earned a master’s degree in natural science education and environmental and natural resources.
As a graduate student and, as part of her research project, she helped Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps during the summer.
“I knew that I wanted to give back to Youth Corps in the form of my graduate research. I partnered with the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps to research and develop their Resource Education Curriculum. I implemented the resource education curriculum as the education coordinator,” Kristen says.
While at the University, she landed a paid internship. She was hired in 2011 as a crew leader for the Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps, which also served as her internship.
“My internship has contributed greatly to my success in graduate school and in my professional career. As a crew leader with the Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps, I led high-school age students on stewardship projects and instructed a resource education curriculum,” Kristen says.
Attending Southeast benefited her greatly.
“My favorite moments at Southeast are the ones that helped me grow as a professional. Students have so many opportunities at Southeast just waiting for them. Southeast is a place where if you want to make a difference, you can,” Kristen says.
Kristen took advantage of the opportunities she was presented with while in her undergraduate program.
“I chose Southeast because it was the type of community where you could make a contribution. I wanted to be in a leadership position, so that I could find ways for students like myself to get outdoors in Missouri. At Southeast, if you make it clear to your professors that you are interested in getting involved, they will find a way to make it happen,” Kristen says.
While at the University, she had the opportunity to work for the State Park Youth Corps at the Trail of Tears State Park. She also worked closely with the director of campus recreation to develop and implement the Alternative Spring Break program. She helped sponsor a Leave No Trace master educator course with one of her favorite professors. She also assisted in developing a 500 level undergraduate course, called “Nature Literacy.”
“My sister enrolled in that program while completing her degree in secondary education,” Kristen says. “Attending Southeast was a deal changer; I gained continued professional experience throughout my degree program that I would not have been able to do anywhere else.”
According to Kristen, in 2010, Gov. Jay Nixon launched the State Parks Youth Corps, a jobs program to provide Missourians between the ages of 17-23 with work experience while helping to enhance Missouri state parks. Since its inception, the program has employed more than 2,000 young people who have put in nearly 550,000 hours enhancing parks and sites throughout the state.
“I have been involved in Conservation and Service Corps for nine years. I found out about the State Parks Youth Corps through one of my professors at Southeast during the first year of the program. I was then hired in the fall and worked at Trail of Tears State Park while I was attending Southeast. This year, I was excited to be hired to give back to the program as the State Parks Youth Corps coordinator.
“In my role as the State Parks Youth Corps Coordinator, I am working to enhance the program so that even more Missouri youth can earn valuable skills while experiencing and improving our state parks and historic sites.”
In addition to working at state parks, Kristen loves going outside and exploring. She recently went on Paddle Forward, a paddling trip with Minneapolis-based Wild River Academy. Young adults paddled the length of the Mississippi River, starting in September. Halfway through the trip, they need a substitute paddler for three days. She traveled to Montrose, Iowa, to connect with the expedition.
“The goal was to connect people and engage schools in adventure learning. Over the next couple of days we paddled 40 miles in one day, traveled along waterfowl and barges, moved through locks and dams, and were greeted by warm hearts from river communities. It was my first time on the river, and I now see the Mississippi as a new and exciting place to explore,” Kristen says.
To Southeast students, Kristen offers some advice.
“Do what you love, make the time to get involved, try something new, and get outside some more,” she said.