Every year HLT welcomes two new TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members who serve with us from September through July. This year we are happy to welcome Audrey Boraski as Land Stewardship Coordinator and Barry Matthews as Community Engagement Coordinator. We look forward to having you meet them virtually or in person at an upcoming event or volunteer opportunity.
What Were You Doing Before Coming to HLT?
Audrey: I spent this past summer living in Hinsdale, MA and working for The Nature Conservancy in Great Barrington tracking turtles. I am also a third-year graduate student at Antioch University in New Hampshire working on a degree in Conservation Biology. I grew up in the area, in Southampton, MA.
Barry: I am a PhD candidate in American Studies at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, working on a dissertation that examines how automobile access to the National Parks influenced Americans’ relationship to the natural world. I am originally from Charlottesville, VA but have spent much of the past few years here in western Massachusetts. I currently live in Williamstown, just a few hundred feet south of the Vermont border.
What Aspect of Your New Position Are You Most Excited About?
Audrey: I am particularly excited about getting to know the acreage that HLT has preserved in the hilltowns. I have a familiarity with the hilltowns having gone to camp in Goshen growing up and visiting all the wonderful town fairs in the area with my family but have never had the opportunity to really get to know the land off the beaten track. In my work with the Nature Conservancy I learned that there can be all sorts of surprises awaiting one deep in the woods!
Barry: In the past I have worked with organizations to engage the wider community in their work and have found it to be a fascinating process. I am looking forward to helping HLT continue to work with its existing audience and membership and also to reach new, more diverse groups. I think this is a particularly exciting time to be HLT’s outreach coordinator when, due to the pandemic, it appears that more people than ever are looking for ways to engage with their local community to ward off the feelings of isolation and be part of something bigger.
What Do You Think Will Be the Greatest Challenges in the Year Ahead?
Audrey: I agree with Barry that this is an incredible moment to be working with volunteers. HLT has seen many more inquiries about volunteering than in the past. Our immediate challenge is how to set up a system to respond to those inquires in a timely manner and to set up appropriate training when necessary.
Barry: While renewed interest in volunteering is the “upside” of having this position in the middle of a pandemic, figuring out how to safely create events that engage people in HLT’s work and properties is the biggest challenge. While HLT had enormous response to its pivot to webinars to promote socially distancing, six months into the pandemic people are getting tired of only having electronic activities. My hope is that we can find a way to expand back into some in person events to give people a break after spending so much time in front of their digital screens.