by Emilee Foster
I come from a small town in Mississippi (Leakesville, just in case you were wondering), about an hour away from Mobile. Living there was kind of like living in a bubble. It is the kind of place where you know everyone and everyone knows you. We have two gas stations, three restaurants, and a Piggly Wiggly. Everywhere you went you could not get away from the smell of pine trees and the view of cow fields. Because of my rural surroundings, I realized at an early age the importance of protecting our environment. Living in a predominantly agricultural region, a healthy environment meant everything. Outdoor recreation is a huge part of my hometown, and growing up there was like a dream. You could enjoy high school football games every Friday night, and relax on the Chickasawhay River on Saturday. What was not to love? However, as I got older, I wanted to get out of the bubble that was my hometown and do something more.
My journey to Baykeeper started when I was a senior at Spring Hill College majoring in International Studies. My capstone project was focused on sustainability around the world. I was researching conditions in which we can make our environment more sustainable through proper legislation and good ethical and moral codes. Prior to doing this research project, I had never even given the world of environmental non-profits a thought. I learned so much during those four months of research, but I wanted to know more. Even though I was interested in learning about sustainability on a global level, I wanted to see how sustainability translated into my own community.
This is where my search for a summer internship bloomed into an amazing opportunity to use what I learned through class and research, and put it to the test. I wanted to intern somewhere that gave back to the community, a place where I could be proud of working when the summer came to an end. As I began the Google search for the perfect internship, Mobile Baykeeper popped up on my computer screen. The location was perfect, the hours were a dream, and the work they do for the community was inspiring. I knew this was where I wanted to spend my summer.
I immediately applied for an internship. From day one, I felt like Baykeeper is a place where I could put my skills to the test and learn more about myself and my community. During that summer, I made friends who I will remember forever, and learned skills that would help me no matter where life took me next. As my four-month internship came to an end, I prepared for the dreaded job search. That was, until Baykeeper asked if I wanted to join their AmeriCorps program as a member of the Volunteer Engagement team. I leaped at the chance to continue working for such an amazing organization.
I began my AmeriCorps service in September of the same year. My job was based around engaging the community and spreading the word about Mobile Baykeeper. I recruited and organized more than 1200 volunteers for over 25 community and fundraising events. Throughout my eleven-month service, I got to see first-hand the importance of what we do in our communities to provide them with clean water, clean air, and healthier surroundings. I met so many wonderful members of the community and cultivated meaningful relationships with them. I was so inspired by these individuals that I knew I wanted to continue working for Mobile Baykeeper.
Just as my first AmeriCorps service was ending, I applied to join Mobile Baykeeper as a full-time staff member. This was my opportunity to take everything I had learned in the past fifteen months and start building my career. I joined Mobile Baykeeper as an Administrator because I see the importance of what this amazing organization does every day. I want to be able to help this team continue to solve issues to provide a healthier, safer environment in our communities.
I believe that growing up in a rural community instilled in me a love for the environment. I want to help protect our natural resources and make our coastal communities safer and healthier for everyone. I’m proud of where I came from, but I’m even prouder of where I’m going.