Meet Kjersti Swanson, an AmeriCorps member serving the northeast section of Nebraska!

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska to a professor and a business consultant. My father, the youngest of 6 children, always had a unique passion for all things natural. My mother, the youngest of 3, always had a unique passion for all things practical.

My interest in the environment and conservation really came from my father’s influence as a child. My father owns property in eastern Iowa which for the past 6 years he has spent converting into its natural prairie state. Growing up, my family would frequently visit this property, taking picnics and spending the day in the treehouse my dad built for us as kids. As I got older, however, I started taking note of the impact my father was making on the environment by trying to conserve natural grassland.

I owe a lot of my insight and inspiration to my parents, however, I had to form my own insight too. I needed to go out into the world, and see for myself what had been missing from my life. After my pivotal visit to Costa Rica the summer of my sophomore year of high school, I realized that there was much more I could be doing on my own to combat the issues I cared about. Those few weeks I spent in the rainforest replanting what had been destroyed by loggers was just a small sliver of my experiences with environmental work, but would become the basis for my aspirations for my career. 

Senior year of high school came and flew by and the one important thing left to do was to find somewhere to go to school. I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for environmental policy programs that would help me lay the foundation and start building my career out of serving and protecting the environment. 

After much deliberation, I ended up at the University of Michigan where I plan to study environmental science and public policy so I can develop the skills and have access to the resources to make the necessary changes.

What started out as a family affair, that is, taking care of my father’s property, quickly turned into a broader conversation about global biodiversity, conservation, and climate change prevention. This AmeriCorps service is just one small, but impactful, step I’m taking towards creating a lasting impact in my community of Omaha, that will hopefully translate into vast and dramatic change for the rest of the world as well.