Meet Sarah McLain. Sarah has been serving with Conservation Nebraska’s AmeriCorps Common Ground program since March 2022. She loves traveling, gardening, baking, playing guitar, dying her hair, making mixed media art, and, most of all, meeting new people.

Sarah has been interested in the beauty of the natural world from a very young age. She comes from a family of artists and creatives, and, as a result, she has become captivated by natural design and the way that humanity interacts with nature. As a young child, she moved from Tucson, Arizona to Offutt Air Force Base, and would often play outside, drawing with lava rocks on the cracked pavement outside of her family’s Base Housing duplex or using the mulberries that grew in the trees just beyond her chain link fence to create little “watercolor” drawings. 

As a high school student, she knew she wanted to work with a community – whether it be internationally or locally. At first, she considered international work, perhaps in linguistics or working as a political advocate. She worked on her art in private, studying natural subjects, specifically focusing on the themes of color in nature, and seasons. However, it was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she realized her true passion, and what direction she wanted to take with her career.

During her junior year at UNO, she took a month-long, faculty-led trip to Besançon in France. At first, her purpose was to improve her French. The city, however, showed her the importance of sustainable design, and how nature could be integrated into city planning. The entire city center is built in a way where driving is more difficult than walking or taking the tram, and the citizens place a huge emphasis on the river which runs through the city. This experience reignited her interest in the relationship between people and nature. 

When she returned from Besançon, she had the opportunity to work with UNO’s Office of Sustainability, as a Program Developer. Her position involved creating educational materials on a wide range of topics  This experience helped her realize her passion for the local community, and helped solidify her determination to act as an advocate and steward for Omaha and the people in it. Sarah’s specific passions are sustainable transportation and water quality.

Today, Sarah is on the road to becoming a city planner. Her role in the AmeriCorps Common Ground program currently centers around the Omaha Community Garden, as well as various educational outreach events and posts. With the Common Ground program, she has been able to make connections within her community, and help them voice their concerns. She believes her experience in the Common Ground program will help her better connect to her community, as well as communities across the state, and educate them on how to advocate for their local natural resources. She wants to emphasize our role in protecting the environment and our natural resources, as well as emphasizing the beauty, power, and efficiency that nature has to offer us.