Friday, October 20, 2017

Westmoreland Conservation District Hosts First AmeriCorps Member: Alyssa Harden

Alyssa Harden isn’t in the military, but she is serving our nation.  In fact she’s one of more than 80,000 citizens who are volunteering their time, energy, and talents in service to America through a program called AmeriCorps at the Westmoreland County Conservation District.
Similar in philosophy to the Peace Corps, but focused within our own country, AmeriCorps members do a lot of good things for other Americans.  
Some offer help during hurricanes, forest fires, and other disasters…some build houses for people living in poverty…and, some like Alyssa, focus their energies on improving our environment.
Since joining AmeriCorps in August, Harden has been in Greensburg with the staff of the Westmoreland Conservation District, and her goal is to help improve the water quality in Westmoreland County.
In the past few months, she’s been involved with the Conservation District’s projects to reduce the amount of soil that gets into streams from unpaved roads in the county.  And she’s also been providing support for the water-quality efforts of area watershed and trail groups.
The August graduate of the University of Pittsburgh likes the program and the work.  
“I majored in geology, which is more about rocks and earth structures,” Harden said, “but I always also liked environmental science, which is more conservation-oriented.”  
She especially enjoys the fieldwork and hopes to do even more during her tenure with the program, which continues until August of 2018.
This is the first AmeriCorps member the 68-year-old Westmoreland Conservation District has hosted.  
“Some of our sister agencies, such as the Armstrong County Conservation District, have hosted AmeriCorps members for many years and always spoken very highly about the program,” said Westmoreland Conservation District Manager/CEO Greg Phillips.
“Then, a few years ago, our District hired Chelsea Walker, who had just finished her service as an AmeriCorps member with the Armstrong County District.  Chelsea came to us very well prepared for her watershed position with our District, and has worked out beautifully.  It is clear that AmeriCorps is a very beneficial program – for our country and the members -- and I feel certain that we will host a member again in the future.”
Harden, a 2014 graduate of Plum Senior High School, lives in Holiday Park, Allegheny County.
For more information on programs, initiatives, education, assistance and upcoming events, visit the Westmoreland County Conservation District website.
(Photo: Alyssa Harden stands on a pedestrian bridge over Cherry Creek on the campus of Westmoreland County Community College.  Conservation practices have been put in place here over the past few years to improve water quality.)

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