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-year term. This year, the council welcomed eight new members, bringing the total to 14.
With a diversity of SCA service backgrounds – from former high school crew members to conservation corps members – this year’s Alumni Council is well prepared to represent and connect with the SCA’s 75,000 alumni. Council members engage with SCA staff and alumni, recruit new SCA applicants, conduct outreach to partners and the general public, and lead hands-on service events in their home communities, from Alaska to Florida.
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.
Read about current Alumni Council members and their conservation work.
Interested in serving on the Alumni Council? Email SCAAlumni@thesca.org.
Interested in other ways to help represent SCA as an alum? Consider becoming an SCA Alumni Ambassador.
Alumni Council Bios
Advisor: Lillian Bloch, ‘05, ‘07, San Francisco, CA, SCA Board of Directors
Visit the Alumni Council community pages at JoinTheSCA.org
Betsy Defries, Aspen, CO
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, and she is excited to be leading crews for SCA again during the summer of 2013.
Working with youth in the outdoors is her greatest passion, but Betsy is also passionate about skiing, local food systems, and knitting.
Chris Oswalt, Austin, TX
I’m fortunate to be born and raised in the heart of The Great State of Texas. I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in Natural Resource Management and Archaeology. For most of my life (until I was 22) I didn’t have a strong connection to the out-of-doors. This changed in a 2007 summer of boredom: my girlfriend and I packed up my Toyota Tacoma and headed West. We traveled and camped and hiked in 25 National Parks for 3 months and loved it so much so that we repeated the trip the following year. The following year I was fortunate to work at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge via The SCA. It was another one of those things that was so awesome the ﬁrst time that I had to do it again. I spent 2009 and 2010 building trails, counting terns, taking trips to Atlantic Islands, and enjoying the unique Maine lifestyle.
My days now are spent working at REI and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. For TPWD, I travel with a trailer of camping gear and kayaks to a different state park and tach folks who have never been camping how to do so.
Aside from that, I’m a simple man. I love photography, Texas Aggie Football, riding my motorcycle on forgotten 4x4 roads and dirt country roads. I enjoy cooking, smoking, and grilling all kinds of meats, cheeses and vegetables, writing, traveling, hang gliding, ﬁxing and operating anything with an engine. My favorite dog is the basset hound, my goal is to own a farm with a mini-donkey and a Bison. For the short term, I’d love to make it out to Alaska and enjoy the lifestyle for as long as possible.
- Favorite animals in order- Bison, Porcupine, Javelina.
- Dream car- 1970 Plymouth Barracuda.
- Favorite Book- Harry Potter (only real books I’ve ever read.)
- Most frequented National Parks- Zion, Yosemite, Olympic.
- I can grow a sea-worthy beard in about 3 days.
Craig Dicht, Joshua Tree, CA
The story of my post-collegiate 20s can only told with multiple references to SCA. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004 I spent ten months with SCA Massachusetts, teaching environmental education, building trails, and living peaceably by a pond in Dubuque State Forest with an array of wildlife (including two dozen of the ﬁnest humans on the planet). There I found a deeper sense of community, self-knowledge, and feelings of purpose in action that had lain dormant through 16 years of classroom-based learning.
I wanted more, and found it with several SCA programs: the West Virginia Sustainable Communities Corps; an environmental education internship at SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge; the New Jersey Green Team high school crews; and leading three years of crews for the SCA Desert Restoration Corps and WildCorps. I could take days sharing my appreciation for the people, places, and opportunities to serve from each SCA program. Suﬃce it to say that I would not be who I am or where I am without the chances I took that came my way through SCA. I am now settled in Joshua Tree, California, working as a freelance ﬁeld biologist, and raising two daughters (Anu and Mahalia) with my partner, Clare.
Elisabeth Allard, Anchorage, AK
Throughout Liz’s time in college, whenever someone asked her what she was going to do with an Environmental degree, Liz always responded candidly by saying, “Well, I am going to move into the woods, wear a lot of ﬂannel, and grow a beard.” Having been raised by parents who met while working for the U.S. Forest Service at Mount Baker, Washington, as well as being supported by a network of nature-loving, hippie counselors every summer at a camp in Michigan, Liz’s connection to the outdoors and public lands is, in her opinion, inherent. Liz hails from the high-ﬁve state (Michigan) and after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Natural Resource and Environmental Science, Liz packed up her ﬂannel, wool base layers, and rain gear and traveled to Kodiak, Alaska for her ﬁrst SCA position as an Environmental Education Intern with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge’s Salmon Camp. Following her amazing experience in Kodiak, Liz moved to Paicines, California to fulﬁll her second SCA position as a Habitat Restoration Intern for Pinnacles National Park. A summer later, Liz returned to Kodiak to work as the Crew Leader for the Refuge’s Youth Conservation Corps. Having loved working with her tenacious, fun-loving teenage crew and wanting to experience more of Alaska, Liz moved to Eagle River to work for the Alaska Center for the Environment as the Youth Leadership Specialist. Liz loves working with youth in the great outdoors and guiding them in developing a devout stewardship for the natural world. When Liz isn’t playing outside with kids, she is enthusiastic about hiking, biking, skiing, cooking, and learning to play a tune on her mandolin.
Jamey Anderson, Washington, DC
Jamey is one of the many SCA alums who got their ﬁrst job as a direct result of an SCA internship. After graduating from college and spending a few months abroad, Jamey was accepted to SCA’s Congressional-National Park Internship, which took him to the Interior Department in DC, where he now works, and to Acadia National Park in Maine, where he learned how conservation works at the local level. While at Acadia, Jamey saw the disproportionate inﬂuence young people can have on critical conservation projects. Among the young staff at Acadia were invasive-species eradicators, medical ﬁrst-responders, trail builders, and educators. Young people helped the Park in numerous ways—from increasing the use of technology to better tell the Park’s unique story to inventorying light ﬁxtures to help the Park save electricity and preserve the night sky. Young people are making real and meaningful impacts to conservation projects like these all across the country, and Jamey is working to see that their stories are told whenever possible.
Jay Carter, Pittsburgh, PA
Jay Carter started with SCA in September of 2005 when he was a freshman at City Charter High School, and has remained very active with SCA ever since. He began volunteering as a member of the TRRO Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC) joining the alumni of that program known as “Trailblazers”. These participants planned their own work projects and participated in activities to develop leadership skills. Through these experiences, Jay soon grew to be a regular and much appreciated ﬁxture of TRRO programming. Jay has participated in a great deal of environmental education and outdoor recreation outreach programs and has learned basic trail work and camping skills. He has attended several overnight service trips to regional state parks and national parks.
Jay currently is an SCA Alumni and Ambassador as of 2012 and a member of the AmeriCorps Alumni since 2011. His kindness, work-ethic, leadership, and smile were welcomes additions to many Pittsburgh conservation community projects he has been heavily involved in! Jay went on to attend summer national crews on the Appalachian Trail in Maine (2007), Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania (2008), Haleakala National Park in Hawaii (2009) and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (2012). He also attended SCA’s EarthVision event in Washington, D.C. (2008), Power-Shift Conference in Washington, D.C. (2009), and completed an SCA Conservation Internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Rice Lake Refuge in Minnesota (2011). Jay is currently majoring in Geography and Regional Planning at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Jessica Sanchez, Fremont, CA
Jessica grew up in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the city of Fremont. Although her childhood included plenty of time outside and family camping trips, it wasn’t until her involvement on a permaculture homestead that really kick-started her career in conservation. It was during this project, stomping on cob and helping build a home without the use of fossil fuels, that she ﬁrst began to think about her carbon footprint. This led to her pursue a degree in Environmental Studies, with an emphasis in Agroecology, at the University of California Santa Cruz. After struggling to ﬁnd work post-college, Jessica found herself with an opportunity with the SCA which proved more rewarding than previously thought. As part of the SCA New Hampshire Corps, Jessica found that she had a passion for educating youth and facilitating moments out in nature. This led her to Slide Ranch, an educational farm off the coast of Marin County, as a Teacher-in-residence. With two years of environmental education experience under her belt, she was ready for a change. This change led her to an SCA internship at the John Muir National Historic Site, where she was immersed in a number of projects involving natural resource protection (including being a part of the Youth Conservation Corps). She is currently a Groundwork Fellow in the City of Richmond, helping to convert two abandoned yards into community green spaces. In her spare time, she enjoys being outside and being active whenever possible, climbing, biking, going to music shows, reading and discovering new things.
Johanna Weaver, San Francisco, CA
Johanna grew up close to SCA’s National Conservation Center in nearby Springﬁeld, Vermont, where she developed an environmentally conscious spirit at a young age. She participated in her ﬁrst SCA high school crew at 15 in Denali National Park, AK, and joined her second crew a year later in Yosemite National Park, CA. During college, she spent three amazing months in the back-country of Flathead National Forest, MT, learning the ins and outs of trail construction as an SCA Intern. In 2009, she had a blast leading an SCA high school crew in Amistad National Recreation Area, TX.
Johanna studied Biology at Oberlin College with minors in Chemistry and Dance, and has assisted with ecological entomology research projects (aka bugs!!) at Oberlin, Cornell University and Harvard Forest. Additionally, she spent a semester abroad in Tanzania to study wildlife management and land use conﬂict in the Kwakuchinja wildlife corridor. Johanna currently works at the Climate and Land Use Alliance in San Francisco, CA, where she assists with international grantmaking that aims to reduce global carbon emissions by preventing deforestation and enhancing indigenous peoples’ rights. In her free time, Johanna enjoys dancing, biking, and general gallivanting around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Justin Levon Duncan, Pembroke, NC
Hello my name is Justin Duncan and I’m a senior at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke studying Environmental science and pursuing a minor in Geography. I chose to major in environmental science for several reasons. . I live for the outdoors and conservation and I believe the conservation of our environment is necessary. The move toward alternative fuels important and our global warming and rising temperatures is a reality. Conservation through stewardship is a positive direct impact on the minds and surrounding environment that we must always up hold. These are all problems my generation and the ones to come will be faced with, unless we do something about it.
For the greater portion of my life I have spent it in the Boy Scouts. The single greatest accomplishment I have earned in my life has been the rank of Eagle Scout. I owe everything to The Boy Scouts of America, the adventures we took, the community service, and the love and respect for the outdoors are all things I’m am thankful to have and completed. There isn’t a day that goes by I am not thankful for what the Boy Scouts have done for me.
I love being outdoors and am an avid high adventure seeker. I’ve hiked to the top of Mt. Baldy in Cimron, NM and Pilot MT. in North Carolina along with the Grayson Highlands and parts of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve white water rafted down the New and the Rio Grande. In 2005 I went on a trek at Philmont 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 my pack rather than properly secured in bear bags. Needless to say I learned the rules of securing your camps site properly that trip, and leaving with the nickname “Bear bait”.
I am an alumnus of the NPS Academy 2012 Grand Tetons and I was a peer mentor for the 2013 NPS Academy Great Smoky Mt. NP. During the summer of 2012 I worked at the North Cascades NP as a Fire Effects Monitoring intern.
Throughout high school my interests were mainly in architectural drafting and construction technology although I have gone through several courses in networking and computer engineering. To be honest I did not like biology or chemistry during high school but since entering into college it has become my primary focus, I believe this to be the irony of life. I hope to become an Environmental engineer and an advocate for a more sustainably environment.
I see serving with SCA as a way to acknowledge and give back to the environment all while learning and bettering myself in my major and future career ﬁeld. I am willing to do what it takes to get the job done!
Kelly Cox, Miami, FL
A Florida girl at heart, Kelly was raised on the white sand beaches of Boca Raton before deciding that she could go for a change of scenery. She upped and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina where she graduated as a member of the NC State Wolfpack with degrees in Political Science and Natural Resources Policy and Administration. Kelly is currently enduring her ﬁrst year as a law student at the University of Miami where she is studying Marine Affairs and Environmental Law. An avid climber, backpacker, SCUBA diver and all around outdoor junkie, Kelly enjoys anything that brings her outside with good people. Kelly has spent some quality time with the green forests of Kentucky in Mammoth Cave National Park, the mosquito-laden tundra of Alaska in White Mountain BLM National Recreation Area, and the big mountains of Colorado in Rocky Mountain National Park by participating in three High School Conservation Crews with the SCA. Kelly is an enthusiast of snickers bars, classic rap, superheroes, naps and iced coffee. Kelly is very passionate about the SCA and its mission, and she looks forward to continuing to engage alumni during her second year on the council.
Lauren Smith, McCall, ID
I hail from the under-appreciated state of New Jersey where I entered the SCA world in 2004 on the NJ Green Team. I feel I have grown up on this crew, or family, where I have been a crew member, apprentice crew leader, and crew leader for a total of nine years. I attended Susquehanna University where I earned a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences. In between I was able to attend a SCA Alternative Spring Break in Central Florida and after graduating a leader crew in Katmai National Park, Alaska. During a yearlong AmeriCorps term in New Jersey of 2012, I realized how much I enjoyed sharing my knowledge and appreciation of the outdoors to the public. I returned to school to start an M.S. in Natural Resources with an emphasis in Environmental Education from the University of Idaho in August of 2012. I’ve been living in another under appreciated state, Idaho, and have loved every second of it tucked away in a cozy cabin in Ponderosa State Park. I truly wish to one day soon be able to work for a non-proﬁt conservation organization and be able to engage high school and college students in experiences that will open their minds to the great outdoors and ﬁnding ways to conserve them. I have high hopes to one day live on a tropical island where I will be surrounded by mango trees and and plentiful amounts of pineapples.
Leah Duran, Oakland, CA
At the John Muir National Historic Site, I lead visitors through John Muir’s Victorian mansion, which showcases the original desk where he penned his ideas on the importance of preserving national spaces. As permanent park guide, I share my passion for the earth through ranger programs, conversation, and writing. After graduating from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in parks management, I decided to join AmeriCorps with the intent of giving back, a small “thank you” for life’s generous gifts. My introduction to the conservation ﬁeld and the NPS began with an SCA internship at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona. I was hooked, and resolved to travel, work in beautiful places, and learn and grow in ways I never before considered. At SCA Massachusetts, I shared my knowledge with students and carved trails and tree trunks with the chainsaw. In exchange, I learned the meaning of community and how to live close to the land. Afterward, I called the Grand Canyon home as an SCA habitat restoration intern before landing a job at Lassen Volcanic National Park. While serving with the NPS, I plan to keep merging my love of communication and conservation, with the idea that words can translate ﬁrst to appreciation, then to action. My hope is to alight sparks, to kindle not only appreciation of these special places, but the desire to DO something, to live more consciously and lightly. I am thrilled to be involved again with the SCA, and to help enrich the lives of others while we all work towards more harmonious living.
Priya Cook has worked in the ﬁeld of education for nine years, starting as a teacher on the Mexican border of Texas and in interior Alaska. She developed a love for the outdoors on long walks with her grandfather in the Western Ghats of India. Priya spent 11 years of her childhood in Singapore and, on her ﬁrst backpacking trip as a 15-year old, discovered her passion for the backcountry and met her future husband, Brian. Priya completed an Appalchian Trail thru-hike and serves on a PATC volunteer trail crew. She spent three months in Great Smoky Mountains National Park leading environmental education programs for North Carolina school children. Priya has been a Crew Leader for SCA’s school year and summer crews and is currently helping to revise SCA’s curriculum. She also helped lead the inaugural NPS Academy in Seward, Alaska. She loves learning, working, and playing in the natural world with kids and adults of all ages. Priya has an undergraduate degree in Great Books from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Public Policy from the LBJ School at UT Austin.
Zachary Bolick, Salt Lake City, UT
A true Southerner, I grew up just outside of Nashville, TN via way of Chapel Hill, NC. After surviving eighteen years of heat and humidity, I decided it was only appropriate I continue to sweat it out for another four at the University of Tennessee, where I received my undergraduate degree in Political Science and Global Studies. During my time as a student I became well acquainted with SCA through their much lauded internship program.
From the shores of NC, to the wetlands of the S.F. Bay area, SCA connected me with multiple summer conservation positions, all of which changed my life substantially. Trying to describe these experiences, however, is analogous to attempting to pick up mercury with a fork, so I’ll spare you the endeavor. Suﬃce it to say, that over the last few years I have worked positions as a seasonal ranger at national parks scattered throughout the country and even recently completed an Environmental Policy Master’s Program at Oregon State University—things I owe in large part to SCA.
Today, I work as the Utah Community Coordinator for an environmental advocacy organization called the National Parks Conservation Association. In short, my job consists of advocating on behalf of and protecting Utah’s national parks in a number of different ways. Perhaps my biggest responsibility is building connections with state politicians, business leaders, federal land managers, and local community leaders in order to strengthen their relationships and increase their understanding of the economic, ecological, and intrinsic values of Utah’s national parks. While I’m unsure as to where my career will ultimately lead me, one thing remains abundantly clear; whatever path I take will be one that SCA helped steer me toward—and for that I am incredibly grateful.