Alumni Council

SCA Alumni Council 2014 -- The Next Generaton of Conservation Leaders!

The mission of the SCA Alumni Council, formed in 2007 to mark SCA’s 50th Anniversary, is to organize alumni in support of SCA and its mission to create the next generation of conservation leaders. Each year, current council members select new recruits from young alumni nationwide for a two to three-year term.

With a diversity of SCA service backgrounds – from former high school crew members to conservation corps members – the Alumni Council is well prepared to represent and connect with SCA’s 75,000 alumni. The Council’s purpose is to act as a vehicle for organizing alumni in support of SCA’s mission, including engagement with SCA and its members, recruitment of new SCA applicants, outreach to partners and the general public, hands-on service, and other events in our communities.

While members of the Alumni Council live in diverse regions of the country and keep in touch mostly online, the Council comes together once a year at the Annual Meeting. These meetings are a chance to reaffirm a commitment to help alumni stay connected to an organization that has transformed countless lives and landscapes.

Specifically, the Council’s goals are to:

  • Plan and implement hands-on service projects and social events for SCA alumni, including events with Alumni Council or SCA partners
  • Engage directly with SCA staff and current members and support their projects and activities
  • Provide information to current alumni and potential new SCA volunteers about SCA programs and internships
  • Strengthen the SCA’s reputation as the nation’s preeminent youth conservation movement among partner organizations, agencies, and the general public
  • Serve as a source of counsel for SCA staff and board members, as requested.

The application period for joining the Alumni Council is now closed. Email if you have any questions about the council.

Interested in other ways to help represent SCA as an alum? Consider becoming an Alumni Ambassador.

Alumni Council Bios

Advisor: Lillian Bloch, ‘05, ‘07, San Francisco, CA, SCA Board of Directors

Visit the Alumni Council community pages at

Alexandra von Bieberstein, Boston, MA

Alex grew up in a rural area of upstate New York, where she was introduced to the outdoors at a young age, hiking, paddling and exploring the surrounding landscape with her family, especially her adventure seeking grandparents. Her first SCA experience occured at the age of 15, when she served as a member of a conservation crew at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park — after that she was hooked! SCA offered her a way to travel, enjoy America’s most scenic landscapes and foster adventure while serving on HS crews in North Cascades and Glacier National Parks, trail crew positions in NH’s White Mountains and Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in CA and an alternative spring break program at Padre Island National Seashore.

After Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York, she accepted her most recent SCA position as a preservation planning intern with the National Park Service Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston, MA. Now employed there as a historical landscape architect, she is grateful for the personal and professional development opportunities offered through SCA which assisted the launch of her National Park Service career.

Ben Dunphey, Bar Harbor, ME

Ben grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. His parents instilled a wonderful sense of adventure and a love for the outdoors with family vacations to Acadia National Park in coastal Maine. His first experience with SCA was in 2006 on a high school crew in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan where he spent one of the best months of his life on a wilderness island in Lake Michigan. He did 2 more crews in North Cascades NP in WA and along the Connecticut River in VT and attended SCA’s EarthVision Conference in DC.

Ben graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) with a B.S. in Environmental Science with focuses on mapping and recreation and resource management. During his time at ESF, he was a trails intern with the US Forest Service and then led his own HS crews in Denali NP and North Cascades NP.

After graduation in 2012, he ventured out to the beautiful state of Idaho for the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Program. During this program, he met some of his closest friends and explored some of the US’s most remote places. He then participated in SCA’s Lake Berryessa Leader Development Crew in Napa, CA and led a crew in the Sierra NF in CA. Ben currently works on Acadia NP’s trail crew.

Betsy Defries, Missoula, MT

Betsy grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, but quickly found her home in the west. Betsy’s love of western landscapes has taken her many places including the University of Montana for a degree in Environmental Studies, Glacier National Park as a naturalist, farming throughout western Montana and Colorado, the Vail Valley as a winter naturalist, and most recently in Aspen, CO as a kindergarten through fourth grade environmental science educator.

Throughout these years, Betsy could be found working in many capacities with the Student Conservation Association. Her introduction into the SCA came from cooking for Crew Leader Trainings with dear friends, and as soon as she could Betsy became a crew leader herself. Betsy first led a crew at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on Long Island, and then proceeded to lead an Alaska Native Youth crew in Lake Clark National Park in AK. Most recently Betsy was a leader for the National Park Service Academy in Kenai Fjords National Park. Working with youth in the outdoors is her greatest passion, but Betsy is also passionate about skiing, local food systems and knitting.

CJ Goulding, Seattle, WA

CJ was born and raised in the great Garden State of New Jersey. He and his brother grew up constantly outside of the house, either playing some sport or just exploring the neighborhood. After high school, he left NJ for Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL (Math/Physics). It was in Huntsville in 2011 where he connected with SCA by participating in the pilot NPS Academy (Grand Teton NP), and spent the summer as an intern at Yellowstone. Since then, he has served in the Academy in various roles, and has worked in National Parks all across the country. He has also been a community crew leader with SCA leading crews in Seattle. He recently wrapped up a year working with the Youth Programs Office of the National Park Service in Washington DC and is the Lead Organizer for the Natural Leaders Network. He enjoys everything from making connections between ideas to making people laugh. His major passions in life are people, growth, service, sports, and learning more about leadership.

Cori Rendon, Everett, WA

Cori grew up in the border city of Laredo, TX and became a conservation rock star in 2013 when she participated in SCA’s NPS Academy. Through the Academy, she was able to spend three months at Great Smoky Mountatins National Park as an interpretation intern. The following year she returned to the Acamedy as a peer mentor and as a leader in 2015.

Cori studied Natural History Interpretation at the State University of New York: Environmental Science and Forestry with a minor in Recreation Resources and Protected Area Management. Through SCA she was able to find her dream career protecting public lands by educating and engaging the public. After her internship, she worked at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in her home state of Texas and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area on the Oregon coast.

Currently, Cori is the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator at Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in western Washington. She works with a variety of partners (like SCA!) coordinating and leading youth and community programs throughout the Forest. When Cori isn’t enjoying the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest she likes to try new recipes, sing karaoke, read and drink chai lattes.

Elle O’Casey, Woodstock, VT

Elle O’Casey is currently working with for the National Park Service at the Stewardship Institute in Woodstock, Vermont. She was able to begin working for the Institute as an SCA intern for 4 months before being hired on full-time. At the Stewardship Institute, Elle is currently working on an urban initiative and hopes to achieve widespread recognition of the diversity of places, stories, and leaders working alongside the Park Service in urban areas.

Elle’s background is in international relations and environmental policy with a focus on federal land management. She received her bachelor’s degree in international relations at Point Loma Nazarene University and her master’s degree in public policy at Oregon State University.

Elle grew up on the mild-weathered Oregon Coast. Since moving to Vermont, she’s focused on trying to acclimate to the “wicked” tough New England Winters by honing her skiing and ice fishing skills.

Elisabeth Allard, Palmer, AK

Liz hails from Michigan where she spent every waking moment, from adolescence on, hiking the dunes of the Great Lakes and skiing the winter splendor - developing a devout stewardship for her natural surroundings. To develop her stewardship into more direct action, Liz acquired a degree in Natural Resource and Environmental Science from the University of Michigan. Following graduation, Liz packed up her wool base layers and rain gear and traveled to Alaska for her first SCA position as an Environmental Education Intern with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

Following her incredible experience in Kodiak, Liz moved to Pinnacles National Park in CA for her second SCA position as a Habitat Restoration Intern. Liz returned to Kodiak to work for the Refuge’s Youth Conservation Corps and refused to move out of Alaska. After serving as the Youth Leadership Specialist with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action in Anchorage, Liz put down roots in Palmer, working as a field organizer to protect the Matanuska Susitna Valley from three proposed coal mines. When Liz isn’t hosting meetings with community activists, she is enthusiastic about hiking, biking, skiing, and learning to play the mandolin.

Jean Bartholomew, San Francisco, CA

Jean is an overly proud native Pittsburgher. She began with the SCA as a high school student on a national crew 15 miles in the backcountry of Yellowstone, aka her version of paradise. In college, she participated in Alternative Spring Break at the Grand Canyon which reinvigorated her love of national parks and trail work. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Political Science, she discovered that while she loves writing she has a disdain for cubicles. Jean worked briefly at REI, replenishing her gear supply before heading back to SCA to lead national crews. In her first stint as a field leader, Jean had the wonderful opportunity to serve in Yellowstone again, in the same region of the park with the same agency contact.

Jean has gone to on become immersed in the SCA world, working on leader crews and national crews - from Denali to the Virgin Islands, and leading volunteer events in cities across the country. She is now the Seasonal Community Services Educator at the Crissy Field Center for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in San Francisco. With this role, she uses the skills and values she gained with SCA to teach placed-based environmental education.

Jeremy Taitano, Philadelphia, PA

Jeremy is a current student at Temple University in Philadelphia who began his SCA experience as a high school member of the Washington DC Conservation Learning Corps.

Jeremy first developed a passion for conservation while living on Saipan, a 12x5 mile island in the south pacific from where his father’s family comes. Spearfishing on the islands reefs and spending time on the island’s beaches gave him an appreciation for climate change and sea level rise through first-hand experience.

Jeremy began his SCA experience as a high school member of Washington DC’s Conservation Learning Corps, since then he has served on two community crews, participated in an alternative spring break program and in two National Park Service Academies. He continues to stay active with SCA through several community service events in the Washington DC area.

Since moving back to the mainland, his original curiosity towards nature and caring for the environment has turned into a passion for youth empowerment through connecting with and working within the great outdoors and public spaces.

Justin Duncan, NC

Justin recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a degree in Environmental science and a minor in Geography. He lives for the outdoors and conservation and believes the conservation of our environment is necessary. Conservation through stewardship is a positive direct impact on the minds and surrounding environment that must always be upholded. 

Justin is an avid high adventure seeker. In 2005, he went on a trek at Philmont Boy Scout ranch for 90+ miles in eleven days and encountered bears and several other native animals. The bear encounter was due to a pack of hot chocolate left in his pack rather than properly secured in bear bags. Needless to say, he learned the rules of securing your campsites properly that trip and left with the nickname “Bear bait”.

Justin is an alumnus of the NPS Academy 2012 Grand Tetons and was a peer mentor for the 2013 NPS Academy Great Smoky Mt. NP. During the summer of 2012, he worked at North Cascades NP as a Fire Effects Monitoring Intern. He sees serving with SCA as a way to acknowledge and give back to the environment all the while learning and bettering himself. Justin is now the Sustainability Coordinator at UNC-Pembroke.

Leiloni Begaye, Las Cruces, NM

Ya’at’eeh! Leiloni Begaye is a Diné (Navajo) woman who identifies herself with four clans: Má’dééshgiizhnii (Coyote Pass), To’ aheedlííníí (Water Flow Together), Táchíí’níí (Red Running Into Water), and Tl’ááshchí’í (Red Bottom People). Leiloni is from the Navajo Reservation in Greasewood Springs, Arizona. She graduated from New Mexico State University with a BS in Agriculture. 

Leiloni is an alumnus of the 2012 NPS Academy Grand Tetons and was a peer mentor for the 2013 NPS Academy Kenai Fjords in Alaska. Her SCA experience has led her to intern twice at White Sands National Monument as a Field Paleontologist and an Interpretive and Education Ranger. 

Currently, Leiloni is a School Garden Coordinator in Las Cruces, New Mexico in partnership with La Semilla Food Center and FoodCorps, Inc. She teaches children about food and nutrition, working with teachers and school administrators to increase food and nutrition education in curricula. She also works in her community to build healthier school environments for kids. 

She loves to give back to her community, traveling, hiking, and visiting National Parks and Monuments with her two children. She believes that sustaining our environment and land starts in our own communities.

Tina Walsh, New York City, NY

Much like the island she grew up on, Tina was shaped by her experiences with water. A childhood on Long Island brought fascination with many of the animals living off the shore, especially horseshoe crabs and sharks. This magnetic quality of water remains to be a driving force in her life. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from St. John’s University in Queens where she fell in love with the energy and endless possibilities that New York City brought.

Environmental education and conservation are vital pieces to the changing landscape of New York City. Her first position was a part of SCA’s Hudson Valley Corps as an Environmental Educator with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. From there Tina went on to work at various non-profit groups such as the Beczak Science Center in Yonkers and the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.

Today she is an Environmental Educator at Hudson River Park in New York City, which encompasses 4 miles of reconstructed piers along Manhattan’s West Side. The park’s mission of access, awareness, and stewardship resonate strongly with Tina and make for a perfect fit. With this position, Tina also has the unique opportunity to supervise SCA interns, a great way to be inspired by and connect with the next generation of conservation leaders.

Tyler Lau, Missoula, MT

Tyler grew up in Southern California playing outside learning about the natural world that surrounded him. Whether it was playing in the front yard looking at insects or hiking in Yosemite, his curiousity fed his adventurous side. Tyler graduated from UC San Diego with a double major in Environmental Systems (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior) and Urban Studies and Planning (focused on sustainable development and transportation).

His first position with SCA included Project Leading an exotic plant management crew in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. From there he went on to lead SCA crews all over the country, working in South Carolina, Arizona, California, New Hampshire and many other places. Somehow Tyler ended up on a billboard in Time Square, NYC along with the rest of the SCA Conservation in Action Tour Team that traveled the country in an RV putting on conservation projects in 25 cities across the United States.

These days Tyler has put his pack down in Missoula, MT and is fighting wildland fire. When not fighting fire, he’s working on trails, volunteering with local non-profits, climbing, backpacking and all around exploring just as he did as a kid in the front yard.