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TRENTON - Etan Hindin was seeking a job last year after completing his college studies abroad when he came across information about the Department of Environmental Protection's AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador Program. The environmentally conscious West Orange resident filled out an application and joined the program, hoping to use the opportunity to raise public awareness about water issues in New Jersey.
photo: The Delaware River has it travels through Trenton
Hindin's ambassadorship assignment was a soon-to-be completed one year of service at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, where he honed his skills for a potential future career in the environmental sector. Now, Hindin and other program members are making way for the next wave of young New Jersey Watershed Ambassadors.
Coordinators are accepting applications for new ambassadors through August 31. Once accepted, ambassadors are placed at host sites in twenty watershed management areas encompassing the entire State, from High Point to Cape May. Ambassadors work with all sectors of society to improve the quality of New Jersey's waterways, nurturing community-based environmental activities, and empowering State residents to make responsible and informed decisions regarding their watersheds.
"The Watershed Ambassadors are an extremely valuable resource in assisting the State in filling water quality information gaps," said Jill Lipoti, DEP's Division of Water Monitoring and Standards Director. "I learn as much from their enthusiasm and dedication as they learn from us about the science of watershed restoration.''
The DEP began hosting this AmeriCorps program in 2000. AmeriCorps is a national service initiative that began in 1993 and is also known as the domestic Peace Corps.
The term of service for the next group of ambassadors includes the completion of 1,700 hours of work in a 10- to12-month period. In return, they receive a living stipend of $12,100 over the course of the term; eligibility for health benefits during this period; and training prior to and throughout their term of service. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a Bachelor's Degree, and must have a valid driver's license and reliable transportation to get to and from field sites.
"This past year has been very enriching - you're expected to pack in a lot during your short term of service," said Hindin. "The service and diversity of requirements for the ambassadors drew me to the program. Every day is potentially quite different. One day you could be teaching high school students about the concept of a watershed and the next day you're in the field conducting a biological assessment of a stream."
Ambassadors are expected to give at least 50 presentations during their year of service. It was during one of Hindin's demonstrations to a Paterson youth organization that he was called back to help organize a cleanup and restoration project in the area. Hindin described the event as very fulfilling and the highlight of his program.
In 2011, 20 individuals served as AmeriCorps Ambassadors. Their accomplishments include:
* 500 visual and biological assessments, including 210 category 1 water bodies;
* Initiation of a new protocol for assessment of lakes (87 completed) and climate change stations (16 completed) in support of DEP transformation initiatives;
* Training of 1,200 volunteers in the Department's visual and bio-assessment protocols;
* 960 educational watershed demonstrations provided to 22,500 students and individuals;
* Community watershed stewardship projects that included more than 6,000 volunteer hours.
Interested applicants for the 2011-2012 program should apply by August 31 online athttp://tiny.cc/NJWAP.
Or by sending a resume and cover letter to:
Ms. Akili H. Lynn
AmeriCorps Program Manager
NJ Watershed Ambassadors Program
Division of Water Monitoring and Standards
Bureau of Environmental Analysis and Restoration
Mail Code: 401-04I
401 E. State Street PO Box 420
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420
Phone: 609-777-1406 Fax: 609-984-6505
For more information, visit: http://www.nj.gov/dep/wms/bear/americorps.htm