Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)

AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

AmeriCorps volunteers ended their 10-month service stint this past week, with eight young adults from all over the country set to return home from the Last Frontier. Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk, both originally from the east coast and just recently having completed college, spoke about the significance of their time in Alaska.

“We’ve been here since the end of October, so it was the first winter storm when we got here,” Matthews said.

She said they worked mostly indoors for the cold months of the year, serving Trailside Discovery Camp and the Food Bank of Alaska in Anchorage. From there, the volunteers connected with the Girl Scouts of Alaska, and then finally arrived in Homer late this June to begin working with Homer’s Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

The AmeriCorps volunteers have helped out at all of Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies’ locations, from Peterson Bay to the Inspiration Ridge Preserve and the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center.

Speaking on the significance of their efforts, Kowalczyk said, “We get to spend enough time in places like Homer where we get to meet people who are grateful, like for the work.” Matthews added, “being able to work together in a team and then like, see that impact or even see it come full circle.”

For both of these volunteers, the 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones, asking them to quickly adapt to living and working with seven strangers while having just entered into the darkness of an Alaskan winter.

“So along with the darkness we were trying to navigate like our whole like team dynamics,” Matthews, from Orlando, Florida, said.

However, teamwork developed throughout the 10 months, exemplified by the AmeriCorps volunteers’ most recent tasks of building garden beds at Peterson Bay Field Station and removing the invasive orange hawkweed plant from Inspiration Ridge Preserve.

“It’s good to be doing work that matters,” Kowalcyzyk said.

Both Matthews and Kowalcyzyk said they would recommend the AmeriCorps program in Alaska to anyone their age.

“You don’t really get the opportunity to spend 10 months in Alaska otherwise,” Kowalcyzyk, who is from Buffalo, New York, said.

Looking for Hawkweed on July 7, 2022 at Inspiration Ridge Preserve, Homer, Alaska. (Lacey Salazar)

Looking for Hawkweed on July 7, 2022 at Inspiration Ridge Preserve, Homer, Alaska. (Lacey Salazar)

Volunteer constructed garden bed taken on June 22, 2022, at Peterson Bay Field Station, Kachemak Bay, Alaska. (Lacey Salazar)

Volunteer constructed garden bed taken on June 22, 2022, at Peterson Bay Field Station, Kachemak Bay, Alaska. (Lacey Salazar)

More in News

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

Most Read