This September, Hilltown Land Trust welcomed Sarah Welch as our new Community Engagement Coordinator and welcomed back Audrey Boraski as Land Stewardship Coordinator. As TerraCorps-AmeriCorps members, they will be serving at HLT through the end of July. Get to know them in this interview, and join us for an upcoming event or volunteer work day to meet them in person!
What were you doing before you came to HLT?
Audrey: Before this fall, I was still at HLT. This is my second service term as our Land Stewardship Coordinator! I enjoyed the organization so much and what I was doing, as well as wanting to stay in the area. I knew a second year would give more complete and well-rounded experience. Prior to my first service year with HLT, I was attending Antioch University New England full time in their Conservation Biology concentration.
Sarah: The past two years, I have been working on my master’s degree in the Environmental Education program at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire. Just prior to joining HLT, I was an educator with Mass Audubon Arcadia’s summer camps, leading groups of 7- and 8-year-olds. I’ve spent a lot of time with both my feet planted on the education side of environmental work, but not as much on the administration side, and wanted to get a better picture of the process of planning educational programs from start to finish.
I was drawn to the mission of HLT because I have been a hiker for several years on our conserved lands, which were a big factor in my decision to move to the area! Previously, I lived in and around Northampton, and grew up in eastern Massachusetts near Lowell. The Hilltowns are my favorite place I’ve lived by far, with their combination of nature and community.
What is a skill of yours you are excited to incorporate into Hilltown Land Trust?
A: I am excited to incorporate many of the skills that I have learned at Antioch in their conservation biology program, but also perfecting them after doing a first year at HLT. These skills include habitat analysis, identification of all wildlife, plants and animals.
S: I’m excited to bring my background as an educator to HLT. I have a special place in my heart for nature-based youth education, and hope to expand HLT’s youth and family programming as part of my service.
What are you most looking forward to about this service year?
A: I’m looking forward to building on projects that I started last year. I also want to systematize processes to help our small nonprofit be more efficient, like volunteer outreach and conservation restriction, stewardship, and volunteer management. I’m also very excited to continue building relationships with our volunteers and the greater Hilltown communities!
S: I’m looking forward to working with a broader range of age groups, meeting community members, and learning how educational programs can support conservation goals. Despite having lived in the Hilltowns for the past two and a half years, most of my professional and volunteer work has taken place in the valley. I’m hoping to get a better sense of the challenges and opportunities that environmental nonprofits encounter in rural communities like the one where I’ve made my home.
If you could be an Olympian in any sport/hobby what would it be?
A: Identifying dog breeds based on a single glance.
S: Is there Olympic antique sewing machine restoration? Or quilting? I also love games that involve running and stealth, like Capture the Flag and all its variations.
What is your favorite hiking spot in the Hilltowns?
A: I enjoy all new places that are lesser-known. One place I want to visit soon is Savoy State Forest.
S: Close to home, I love the Hall/O’Neill Property in Williamsburg because of the beautiful hemlock stream running through it. I spent a lot of time in the winter snowshoeing at the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest]! My new favorite HLT spot is Roberts Meadow Brook in Westhampton; it’s so peaceful and has lots of great mushrooms along the trail.
What is your favorite place to get food in the Hilltowns?
A: Any fresh baked bread from the Chesterfield General Store!
If you could pick a superpower which would you choose?
A: The power to touch any plant and see what it needs, like food, water, or light—a literal green thumb.
S: Either flying or 100% reliable edible mushroom identification.
Do you have any pets?
A: I have an 8lb chinchilla breed rabbit named Pepper who loves fresh greens and blueberries.
S: I have a retired barn cat named Simon who loves to snuggle and play with any string or ribbon he can find.
What animal do you think you are most like and why?
A: I’m most like a rabbit, because I’m the most active in the morning, love vegetables, and running around. I would like to be a turkey vulture because they are efficient flyers, don’t have to waste too much energy hunting, and enjoy basking in the sun.
S: I am most like an American Marten, because we both spend a lot of time in the trees, have strong habitat preferences, and love mountain ash berries.
What is something you learned at Antioch that you’re using at HLT?
A: Classes that helped me the most were Leadership for Change, Community Ecology, and GIS. Specifically, I appreciate the practical aspects, systems thinking incorporated into all of them, and especially the fun field visits.
S: Antioch helped me get a lay of the land when it comes to the professional environmental field. That context has been so helpful as I transition into a small conservation nonprofit setting, because I know a bit more about how we plug in to a broader landscape of professionals who are teaching, learning, stewarding the natural world. My work at Antioch helped me develop my internal compass when it comes to social justice issues in the environmental field. I also deepened my ecology knowledge and relationships with people and place in the Northeast.