Minnesota GreenCorps member Karyna Kloude joined Freshwater in September to support our newest program, Adopt a River. The focus of her service year is increasing the program’s sustainability, creating and revamping educational tools, and reaching new audiences. Karyna has already done great work in creating a new cleanup toolkit that walks volunteer leaders through organizing a shoreline cleanup from start to finish.
Alex VanLoh is Freshwater’s education and program coordinator and Karyna’s host site supervisor, and he was a Minnesota GreenCorps member himself when he started working with Freshwater’s Water Steward Program. Alex was excited to add a GreenCorps member to his Adopt a River work, where he collaborates with Community Engagement and Education Coordinator Kris Meyer.
“We are so fortunate to have Karyna on board. Her creativity, attention to detail, and fresh perspective are really enhancing our work. She has already put a lot of effort into our Adopt a River program and we can’t wait to roll out some new features in the spring,” Alex said.
Path to Freshwater
Karyna, who was born in Trinidad and grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, spent a lot of time outside as a kid. She was interested in nature, and leaned toward hard science—she wanted to be an astronaut or a scientist of some sort. In eighth grade, she had a particular affinity for astronomy and science, perhaps influenced by her love of the movie October Sky.
In 2019, Karyna earned her degree in sustainability, with an emphasis in environmental and geosciences, from Minnesota State University Moorhead.
The program that drew her to Moorhead was fairly new when she joined it, and the variety of topics offered within the environmental science track was one feature that attracted Karyna. Besides hard sciences, there were classes in sociology and psychology. “It was within a frame of thinking about how the environment affects us, and how we affect it: The theme was about people and the environment,” she says.
Why Minnesota GreenCorps?
During her time in Moorhead, Karyna spent a semester as a volunteer and intern with River Keepers of Fargo. She wrote articles for their website, which provided her first experience communicating and conducting outreach about environmental issues. “Since that was an important part of my senior year in college, that influenced my decision to go into the community readiness and outreach topic area of GreenCorps,” Karyna says.
GreenCorps gave her a chance to get more experience with the green industry. She researched GreenCorps and learned it was effectively a professional development program, where members gain skills, network, are matched with a professional mentor, and receive a stipend and an education award upon completion of 1,700 service hours.
Project at Freshwater
With an eye to ramping up Adopt a River’s sustainability, building and refreshing educational tools, and reaching new audiences, Karyna’s service project is extensive.
“We have an ambitious goal of encouraging lots of different communities and cultures across Minnesota to do waterway cleanups,” Karyna said. “The challenge was writing one document or toolkit that conveys our message to all these different people. That also presented a good opportunity for me to learn about environmental justice and the ways different organizations that do waterway cleanups have gone about reaching people, sorting out the logistics, and motivating people to care about cleaning up litter.”
These methods include testimonials, statistics about trash collected, or even about brands of trash to highlight when a particular company is a major polluter. “Organizations try to point out really specific things people will be able to relate to, using pictures, videos, tutorials, story maps, or maps in general,” she said. “I’m excited to use their sites as models for our own stuff.”
Karyna appreciates the project’s flexibility. “Alex and Kris have been open minded and taken a lot of my ideas in stride,” she said. “They’ve given me a lot of freedom, so that’s been really cool.”
After her service at Freshwater, Karyna knows she wants to keep doing work that is meaningful and has some connection to the environment, “and hopefully has a component of science communication or some sort of outreach to help change people’s perception of the environment,” she said.