by: Clay McKenney
Figuratively speaking I lived and grew up in the outdoors, in the woods and the fields of East Central Indiana. From toddler to teen I bushwhacked my way through the dense wilderness around my home, unknowingly stumbling through undergrowth and along trails that I would later work to preserve. The property I explored was later acquired by Red-tail Land Conservancy and is now known as Munsee Woods. (Enter Barry Banks, Executive Director and founder of Red-tail Land Conservancy, who taught me all I know about land stewardship.)
As a student of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University, I am required to complete an internship related to my major and/or future career path before graduation. My love for the outdoors has influenced my education and future career since my childhood, fostering an interest in land conservation and consequently non-profits. As the summer approached I had no interest in sitting in a cubicle like my peers, but every attraction to being involved with nature. Having previously volunteered for Barry Banks, the fearless and frank leader of Red-tail, I thought there would be no better place to intern and learn about non-profits and stewardship than the conservancy.
After the interview process, Mr. Banks put me straight to work eradicating invasive species in the very woods I grew up in. Indiana is notorious for its unpredictable climate, but this summer has been different. Rain. At this point I would hazard that I spent half the summer soaked! Not all my time, however, has been devoted to pulling weeds in the downpours. I have assisted Red-tail’s small staff with many other pursuits this summer, including outreach and volunteer programs, events, and acquiring new protected land.
Through my work this summer I progressed towards the end of my collegiate experience, but in the process I did more than complete a requirement. I learned a great deal about the inner workings of a non-profit organization as well as the importance of restoring and preserving our natural environment, which is crucial to both my own future and the world’s.