Adventure awaits: Three Georgia Southern graduates join AmeriCorps, head to Montana for careers in the outdoors
Three Georgia Southern University alumni will soon embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they head west to Montana to work in the great outdoors.
Jakob Richardson (’21), Anna Masino (’21) and Brody Englert (’21) are the most recent Georgia Southern graduates to join AmeriCorps, a federal agency that brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges through national service and volunteering.
Through the AmeriCorps program, the trio of Eagles will each complete a 1,700-hour full-time internship with Montana State Parks where they will be entrusted with accomplishing a variety of different tasks that will have a long-lasting impact on the stewardship of Montana’s state parks system.
Read on to learn more about each student, how they came to join AmeriCorps and learn about their passion for nature and the outdoors.
A sea kayaking trip in Hawaii while on vacation with his family forever changed the trajectory of Brody Englert’s life.
“It turned out the guides who took us were from Georgia, and they had majored in recreation before moving to Hawaii for work, and I thought that was just the coolest way to live — taking people to cool places and doing cool things outside,” he said. “So I immediately looked for colleges with that as a major. And the rest is history.”
Englert began exploring colleges and universities that offered it as a major, and came upon Georgia Southern’s recreation and tourism management program. The Dacula, Georgia, native was excited about his new adventure but had a few hesitations.
“I will be honest, around the end of my freshman year I was thinking about switching majors; however, that changed when I had my first class with Dr. John Peden,” Englert said. “His teaching style is second to none, and his personality and attention to his students make you feel he genuinely cares about what he is doing. He is the person who really made me love the idea of a career in recreation, and I strive to do better and reach farther because of him.”
Click here to read more of Brody’s story.
Though his academic journey had ups and downs, Englert kept his goals and the lifestyle he dreamed of at the forefront of his mind to stay motivated during his undergraduate career.
“The ultimate goal for my career would be to educate as many people as possible on the wonders and importance of our recreational, natural and cultural resources,” he said. “Many times, when politicians or cities need funding, they are quick to cut out recreational, environmental and cultural spending. These however are central to the maintenance of our society, as they are all the ways that we as people de-stress.
“Without recreational resources, we would have no way to counteract those stressors we all feel in our daily lives,” he continued. “I know we all felt this overwhelming stress during the initial stages of COVID when the lockdowns were in place. People couldn’t go outside much, and cabin fever ran wild. If I had one goal for my career, it would be to change this mindset of neglect for recreation and its subsidiaries, so as to foster a happier, healthier America.”
When Englert learned of AmeriCorps, he saw it as an opportunity to lead a life of adventure and service while reaching his goals.
“Joining AmeriCorps is a chance to see and experience an entirely new kind of life, in a place completely foreign to me, and do tons of new and fascinating things,” he said. “Of course, it will be a bit hard to not know anyone, but making new friends is just another part of this grand adventure that I am on.”
He is excited about the skills he will learn and the career experience he will gain while working with AmeriCorps.
“I would also love to gain more certifications, as they look great on a resumé and are just overall very useful,” he said. “However, I would say what I most want to gain is a better understanding of the world around me.”
Before Anna Masino even enrolled as a college student, she knew a typical office job was not in her future. Having worked in an accounting office while in high school, she enjoyed the mentorship but knew she wanted something different. And while she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to pursue as a career, she knew she wanted to be outdoors.
“I always told my parents ‘you don’t have to go to college to play outside for the rest of your life,’” she said, laughing. “They of course told me that was not a wise decision. I liked the idea of being free and being outdoors and sharing that experience with others. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to go about it, or what that career option would be.”
She came to the University having not declared a major. Then one day during an emotional phone call with her dad, she recalled the moment she found her fit at Georgia Southern.
Click here to read more of Anna’s story.
“He was on the Georgia Southern website and as I’m crying to him on the phone, he said ‘What about outdoor recreation?’ And through my sniffles, I asked ‘what’s that?’ so we explored it, I contacted my advisor and declared my major the first week of my freshman year,” she said.
Since then, Masino jumped into her major without hesitation and soon discovered the perfect complement to her academics — Southern Adventures, the University community’s resource for adventure programming. She took advantage of the various services offered at Southern Adventures and worked there as a student.
“In class, I’m getting a sneak peek into what it’s going to look like working in my field,” she said. “I’m in class with my co-workers, so we walk to work together after class and I’m learning how to build on my teamwork skills and group project skills. It’s really cool to see how it all connects and how it’s giving me a mini-preview on what the rest of my life is going to look like professionally. That really excites me.”
Her experiences with Southern Adventures reinforced her decision to pursue a career in the outdoors.
“My first overnight trip with Southern Adventures was to Cape Canaveral and I had the chance to go bioluminescent kayaking,” she said. “I was able to spend time with the trip director and learn from her wisdom as she had been leading trips for a long time. And that night, looking around our campsite at everyone eating together, laughing and sitting back relaxing was really special. Something that we always say is, ‘I can’t believe we’re getting paid to do this.’ It almost doesn’t feel real that I get paid to go on these trips and plan them and learn. And I mean, it’s such hard work, but the payback is priceless.”
Masino, who has overcome challenges associated with ADHD, also appreciates the tight-knit community within the program. Being in a small program where she knew all of her peers and had personal interactions with her professors helped her overcome fears.
“In high school, I did not want to go to college. I was scared that I was going to fail because I struggled so much getting here that I was burnt out,” Masino said. “But as soon as I got into my recreation classes and I got to know my professors, I was just on fire for learning and wanted to know as much as I could. It was a huge shift for me.”
She credits John Peden, Ph.D., for instilling in her a passion for learning and desire to seek experiences like AmeriCorps.
“He cares so deeply about us as students and is willing to sit and talk with us about anything,” she said. “He is so wise and knowledgeable in so many areas, not just recreation. That’s why a lot of us want to go out west. He’s done so many cool things, he inspires us to do the same.”
With such a passion for learning and the outdoors, it’s no surprise that AmeriCorps was the perfect fit to begin her career.
“I love this country and I feel so blessed to be born in the United States, so what better way to show my gratitude than to serve this country somewhere like Montana with a service like AmeriCorps and all that they do for the citizens and for the community,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to expand my knowledge and my experience in life working with AmeriCorps. I know it’s going to be something I’m going to be proud of for the rest of my life.”
Masino will complete her internship at Lone Pine State Park, which is near Glacier, Montana. She’ll work with local schools to help educate students about what is going on at the park, work on trail maintenance and community outreach projects, which she is most excited about.
“I’m excited to build relationships with the people of the community and get to know them more and work with them,” she said. “As I’m doing outreach, I’ll be recruiting them to come volunteer at the park and explain why they should get involved in their community and serve state parks. I’m excited to work alongside Montana locals and learn their wisdom.”
A career in the outdoors seemed like a natural fit for Richmond Hill native Jakob Richardson who grew up with a passion for being outside and appreciating nature.
So when he found Georgia Southern’s Recreation and Tourism Management program with an emphasis in outdoor recreation, he couldn’t wait to dig in and explore what it had to offer.
“My favorite thing about this field is that I’ll rarely be in an office building filing paperwork and sitting behind a computer screen, and it allows me to have a career in what I love doing,” Richardson said.
Now, with a degree under his belt from the only recreation degree program accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions in Georgia, Richardson feels ready for his next steps in this field.
Click here to read more of Jakob’s story.
“I feel like Georgia Southern has prepared very well for my career by heavily utilizing experiential learning,” he said.
As Richardson neared the completion of his degree, the chance to join AmeriCorps presented itself. He found a personal connection to the organization, which prompted him to explore its wide range of service opportunities.
“I chose AmeriCorps because their values — passion, people-diverse and commitment — are similar to the values that I try to uphold every day,” he said. “AmeriCorps also allows me to learn from people who have been working in the field, and that was a very important part for me.”
Beginning in January, Richardson will be based in Missoula, Montana, with AmeriCorps where he will work in the Hellgate district of state parks. There he will help to improve parklands, expand educational and interpretive programs, increase volunteer capacity by organizing volunteer events, and enhance outreach and awareness of the Montana State Park system.
Through his internship, Richardson hopes to learn valuable skills and abilities from mentors in his field as he pursues his career in outdoor recreation.
“My ultimate career goal is to have a positive impact on the community by preserving and teaching them the importance of wild areas,” he said.
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