What I learned from Back to Natives: So many moving parts!

anneInterning for BTN has been a very educational experience. I have developed a knowledge of Native Plants that is more expansive than what I had before becoming involved in BTN. I wish to continue to strengthen my understanding of native plants as I move forward outside of the organization as I, now more than ever, understand their importance to our communities. I spent most of my time in the nursery and this allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge on plant care and consideration of what needs keeping plants healthy and thriving. While most of my time was spent at the nursery, I was also able to work on landscaping, irrigation, volunteer events, invasive control, and the list goes on. Furthermore, I have a better grasp on what it takes for an organization, like this one, to keep running. There are so many moving parts that play into its success. Interning here has opened my eyes to what other doors could be open for me to pursue in the future. I have valued my time here immensely and look forward to keeping the BTN mission with me as I move forward. Thank you to everyone I worked with/for/next to for making this experience be so great. – Anne Gvildys 

Giving back to those who give so much

Andrew Sotoby Andrew Soto, BTN Communications Intern

Internship programs provide college students with the opportunity to learn new skills supplementing their education with real world experience. Oftentimes, internships are unpaid and offer experience as the only form of compensation. It takes true dedication to complete an unpaid internship. This is why it is imperative for students to research and determine whether or not their internship employer has their best interest in mind.

When I started searching for places to meet my internship requirement for graduation at California State University, Fullerton I wanted to be sure that my volunteer efforts would benefit the community I live in. I did not want give my time to an organization driven by profits and the bottom line. After searching through many internship postings I decided I wanted to work with a nonprofit aimed at the preservation of where I grew up and the things I hold dear.

When I began my internship at Back to Natives, I had no experience in the communications industry. I had four years of theory circulating in my head never once having seen any of these concepts in action. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when learning new things, this was no different. The knowledge that my work would be posted online and read by others was always at the back of my mind.

This apprehension was quickly put to rest by Back to Natives Education Director Lori Whalen. Having helped many interns before me, she had the knowledge and experience to tailor my internship to best supplement my education. The education and service learning programs truly provide students with hands on experience in their field. There are no meaningless errands to run or coffee trips to make. Interns are treated as the future professionals they are.

If you are in need of an internship position or would like more information about internship opportunities with Back to Natives, please visit www.backtonatives.org/internships/ to find out how you can jumpstart your future while giving back.

The Untold Benefits of Volunteering

by Andrew Soto, Communications Intern

John_color__smallThere is a growing body of research examining the health benefits of volunteering. A connection between volunteering, social psychological factors and social networks can be described as the “social integration theory.” According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, this theory holds that an individual’s social connections, typically measured by the number of social roles that an individual has, can provide meaning and purpose to his or her life, while protecting him or her from isolation during difficult periods. Individuals who volunteer regularly are also less likely to succumb to depression and tend to live longer lives. (nationalservice.gov) Devoting time to the maintenance and preservation of things held in close regard can help individuals find their place in life giving them a sense of belonging and community, increasing their overall satisfaction with life.

Back to Natives Restoration (BTN) fosters the growth of much more than native plants. BTN provides a professional environment where volunteers can grow personally and professionally while giving back to their communities. Regularly scheduled volunteer events in Orange County and surrounding areas provide many opportunities for those who participate to take an active part in the community. Back to Natives’ volunteer events allow volunteers to spend time in natural settings away from city life.

IMG_0994John Kaiser is no stranger to all that volunteering has to offer. John is one of BTN’s 2015-16 volunteers of the year. He logged 307 hours over the past year with Back to Natives. John has been volunteering with Back to Natives since he graduated from our first BTN USFS Restoration Training Class in 2007-8. After that he became a regular volunteer with Back to Natives, each year earning our volunteer of the year award for giving hundreds of hours of his time.  John even spent several years on the Back to Natives Board of Directors (including two as the president). He became a native plant landscape design/installation client as well! 

John is a retired Southern California resident who holds degrees in engineering mechanics from Stanford and Virginia Tech. “I enjoy growing plants for restoration projects, being outdoors, and making a difference through volunteering.” Said John of his primary motivations for volunteering.

While not everyone has the ability to volunteer as many hours as John, taking a few hours out of your busy schedule to get away from city life can do much alleviate stress. For more information on how to become involved please visit backtonatives.org/volunteer and see what events best fit your schedule. To help BTN continue our excellent volunteer and service learning programs, donate here.

  

Tuesday to Tuesday in the Life of a BTN Intern

Kerryby Kerry Martin, BTN Intern

After watering all the plants in the nursery on Tuesday, we were off on another landscape maintenance adventure this time in Santa Ana (coastal sage zone) with Reggie leading the team (Ryan, Kennedy and I). This particular front yard was designed by Lori and installed by the BTN team the first quarter of this year. I was blown away by how fast the native plants had grown in and how the different foliage textures and colors created such a harmonious feel. In addition to installing a flowing brick walkway, the plants were intentionally planted on natural looking berms, much like they would look in nature. The blooming milkweed, white and Cleveland sage, California fuchsias, wooly blue curls, common yarrow, monkeyflowers and bush sunflowers set the entire yard ablaze with alluring color, a true celebration of the diversity of California’s flora. Complementing the grasses, sages, wildflowers etc. were 2 young California sycamore trees.

Landscape MaintenanceThe plant selection also created an inviting environment for wildlife (hummingbirds and butterflies in particular). In addition to learning from Reggie and Kennedy about identifying the various plants, I learned how to tell the difference between a monarch and queen butterfly, the later having orange with white spots on the top of its wings but otherwise looking just identical, and why butterflies have spots that look like eyes on the back of their wings.

After the yard tour was complete and the “before” pics snapped, we checked to ensure the irrigation was working properly and adjusted the emitter heads where the flow was too low or high – one click to the left or right. After receiving excellent and funny instructions on how to properly use a post hole digger, we set about planting 3 purple three awn grass plants in a bare spot on top of a DG berm. Reggie demonstrated the proper way to plant native grasses. We then set up a new drip line and placed an emitter uphill and just outside the root ball of each plant. Next, we planted 2 sedges by the front door, breaking apart the root ball so that they could be planted in an arc shape with enough room between for the client’s German Shepard to still rest comfortably in her favorite spot! (This type of grass is the only native grass wherein the root ball can be tampered with; otherwise, it’s key to keep intact when planting). The sedges were root bound so were difficult to break up so we also received a lesson on how to carefully break apart the rhizome laterals in order to, in this instance, get the plant in the desired arc shape.

On Thursday, watering the plants first thing in the morning was again top priority. There is definitely a learning curve to watering efficiently whilst not getting the leaves wet. And, I mustn’t forget to more carefully check for kinks in the hose line before scratching my head about why the water is all of a sudden not flowing! Once all the watering was complete, Albert showed me how he was installing the new irrigation for the 4″ pot tables in the back. Kennedy and I then set about removing the blue tarp from the top of the small greenhouse where we grow milkweed, and began to replace it with the shade cloth that had been measured and gusseted by Trina. I also had the pleasure of meeting John, who was lending a hand with putting manzanita seeds into soil in a tray that was going to receive a hot water treatment. I’m very much looking forward to learning much more about propagation including growing plants from seeds and the various techniques used to ensure healthy organic plant growth.

After watering the nursery plants the next Tuesday with Kennedy, we both took the coastal sage scrub quiz administered by Trina. The fact that I can now identify the different indicator species from pictures and even spell the scientific names correctly was very gratifying. I’m getting a head start on similar homework assignments as I’m so enjoying learning how to identify the different native plant species. Trina, Ryan, and Kennedy then set off to Costa Mesa for a landscape maintenance assignment, while I stayed in the nursery to give Albert a hand with cutting PVC pipe and gluing on tees to build the irrigation manifolds for the 1 gallon plant tables in the back.

Another extremely educational week for me! Thanks Reggie and Trina for sharing your knowledge with us all.

Fostering the Growth of much more than Native Plants

Trina and Reginald with the bobcatby Andrew Soto, BTN Communications Intern

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) believes internship programs are critical for student success. The AACU believes providing a physical location outside of a school setting in which students can test out theories and methods they have learned in the courses they have completed, fosters much more than academic growth. (aacu.org) It fosters learning rich with real world experience working as industry professionals.

There is no better time to explore the wide range of professional and community experiences available, than when attending college. By becoming involved in an academic internship or service-learning program at a business, government, or nonprofit organization, students can gain working skills and build a network of professional contacts. These skills and experiences increase the likelihood students will find employment in their desired fields of study.

“My internship with Back to Native was so WONDERFUL and I love talking about it. The creative freedom you gave me was very empowering (and quite frankly spoiled me a little, LOL).” - Kari Dahlgren, Communications Intern
“My internship with Back to Native was so WONDERFUL and I love talking about it. The creative freedom you gave me was very empowering (and quite frankly spoiled me a little, LOL).”
– Kari Dahlgren, Communications Intern

Back to Natives Restoration is uniquely equipped to provide a place where students and those entering the green collar field of native habitat restoration, can implement the skills they have acquired during their education.

Back to Natives Restoration (BTN) impacts the communities it serves on many levels. Our habitat restoration projects are part of a wide array of community engagement efforts set in motion to save habitat, one person at a time. BTN’s service learning workforce development program provides students and recent graduates the opportunity to gain real world hands on experience in various fields of study.

Knowing why an organization does something is equally, if not more important than what that organization does. Back to Natives Restoration is motivated by its mission of saving habitat, one person at a time.

“We’re truly making a difference in the lives of the students we mentor, and in turn they are making the world a better place.” – Reginald Durant, Executive Director

For more information on what intern programs are available or how to volunteer, please visit our website and discover what the green collar field of native plant restoration has to offer.

I don’t want my kid to volunteer…he should be studying!

Guest blog by Allison Henderson from The All About College Blog

National Public Lands Day_longA few years ago, I was chatting with a family about a student’s  ‘brag sheet’ or ‘resumé’. When I asked whether the student had participated in any volunteer activities, the Mom shot back “you know, I don’t understand why everyone thinks volunteering is so important….we never got any help from anyone. Everything I have I worked hard for, on my own, with no help from anyone, even my ex. Why can’t everyone just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?”

A hard question from a tough, world-weary Mom. It turns out the student did, in fact, volunteer at the public high school as a TA, in one of the Career Tech Ed classes offered. The time this teenager spent at school helping other students understand course content was beneficial in many ways. The teacher got a helping hand in an impacted classroom. By volunteering, the student had a chance to delve deeper into the topic and to explore what working in that career would be like. The volunteer also received a great letter of recommendation from her teacher for the college application. A win-win, IMHO.

Over half of teens in the US volunteer, contributing more than 1 billion hours of community service annually. Almost 2/3 of those teen volunteers are ‘regulars’ meaning they volunteer at least 12 weeks per year, primarily, through religious, school or youth organizations.

Volunteers Strengthen the Community

There are so many reasons for students to volunteer.

Here are a few reasons from a “Top Ten” list published by UCSD:

  • Make a difference
  • Encourages civic responsibility
  • Teaches the importance of giving back
  • Learn a lot
  • Strengthens the community
  • Foster empathy
  • Test our a career and gain professional experience

Read this from Psychology Today:

  • Once a volunteer, always a volunteer
  • Volunteers lead healthier and longer lives!

Volunteering is transformative for youth: Read this: http://www.pointsoflight.org/about-us

  • Empathy
  • Curiosity
  • Sociability
  • Resilience
  • Self-Awareness
  • Integrity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Creativity

And this: http://www.justpeace.org/village.htm

  • Nobody is an Island
  • Life is easier when you are part of a family, neighborhood or network of friends
  • You start building a good neighborhood when you yourself decide to be a good neighbor

Did you know:

Volunteers Learn a Lot

Whether a student volunteers because their friends are doing so or b/c it will look good on a college application, the benefits of volunteering are real. Regardless of why they do it, all signs point to encouraging them to do it.

Spectacular Service Learning Program!

Back to Natives has a highly successful service learning program, which includes numerous internship opportunities to help students prepare for a career in the “green collar” field. Available internships include Horticultural Intern(Nursery Assistant), Landscape Design Intern, Habitat Restoration Intern, Communications Intern and Administrative Assistant Intern. Here is a little info about the great Interns who are working with us right now:

Trina and Reginald with the bobcatTrina: “I am a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science and a minor in Global Sustainability. I have prior internship experience doing native plant research at California State University of Long Beach as well as being a field and nursery intern at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. As a native plant intern at Back to Natives, I hope to continue learning more about restoration to achieve a career in the conservation ecology field. I am passionate about research, reversing environmental damages to our earth, and living sustainably. I’d like to apply these interests during my time at Back to Natives.”

Long at the Nursery 2

 

Long: “I am a senior year Landscape Architecture major from Cal Poly Pomona.  My emphasis is on ecological design that includes master planning sustainable communities, low-impact development, and habitat restoration.  I have taken courses on residential drafting, regenerative studies, surveying, and landscape design.  Some of my hobbies include hiking and playing guitar.  My goals as a BTN landscape design intern are to learn more about native plants and their applications in modern landscape architecture.”

Brett

 

Brett: “I chose to pursue an internship position with Back to Natives to increase my knowledge of native plant species and the practices of plant care and habitat restoration. I believe it is our duty to look after the earth by maintaining its natural state as much as possible because the Earth has its own inherent value that we have benefited from for our entire existence. I hope to encourage education at the community level while learning as much as I can from everyone at Back to Natives. I am a graduating Senior at Chapman University finishing up a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, and I am eager to obtain hands on experience in the environmental field. I see this opportunity as a valuable step towards starting a successful career working with people and wildlife.”

LeilaYoonsu Leila Jo: I am an international student from South Korea and also a senior from California State, Long Beach majoring in Environmental Science and Policy and minoring in Biology. Having taken many ecology and environment related courses, I realize that restoring native plants is a significant way to conserve the environment. I prefer field work and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, so I applied for the nursery intern position. I look forward to learning more about strategies to restore, manage, and grow native plants while working as the nursery intern at BTN.

Why do an Internship: Internships are very beneficial when searching for employment, or seeking entrance to college or graduate school. Internships are highly rewarding, work force training opportunities, which provide real world skills pertinent to many future positions and educational fields.

Why complete an Internship with Back to Natives? BTN Internship opportunities include a graduated level of training and experience within habitat restoration, native plant propagation, landscape design/installation/maintenance, and/or general nonprofit/organizational management and administration.

What sort of commitment does it take? Internships are available in 50 hour increments with a minimum of 8 hours required per week. Schedules will be set at the beginning of candidates’ internship cycle with a signed Intern Agreement. After a candidate has successfully completed 100 hours as Intern I they are qualified to apply for Intern II.

Learn more HERE.

Learning to Lead

Back to Natives and USFS offer hands-on training courses in Habitat Restoration and Volunteer Management

Successful habitat restoration program provides training for volunteers and agency staff for an eighth year.

A student learning how to use a weed wrench, which is used to remove larger invasive plants like Scotch Broom. Photo by Mark Bowler
A student learning how to use a weed wrench, which is used to remove larger invasive plants like Scotch Broom. Photo by Mark Bowler

Back to Natives Restoration, in a cooperative agreement with the United States Forest Service in the Cleveland National Forest, will lead a hands-on training course for restoration volunteers. This successful program is now in its eighth year. A new Volunteer Leader Training class will also be offered for those interested in improving their leadership skills, and helping others improve local wildlands.

Participants in the USFS Training class will learn how to remove invasive non-native plants using tools rather than herbicides. They will learn how to keep themselves and others safe in the field, how to manage restoration volunteers, and how to identify native and non-native plants. After passing a final exam, they will become a BTN “Green Shirt”. Once they fulfill a yearlong volunteer commitment they will be certified to lead groups of volunteers in the Cleveland National Forest.

Participants in the Volunteer Leader Training class will learn to lead groups of volunteers while learning a little more about native plants and how to protect their habitats. Successful students will attend at least five of ten scheduled Sunday volunteer events with Back to Natives in the San Mateo Wilderness in the Cleveland National Forest. After passing a volunteer leadership test, they will receive a certificate and become a BTN “Dirt Shirt”.

Students gathered for a safety meeting before beginning hands-on training in the USFS BTN Restoration Training class.
Students gathered for a safety meeting before beginning hands-on training in the USFS BTN Restoration Training class.

Individuals interested in attending either of these series of classes, which begin on January 24, 2016, can visit backtonatives.org/education for more information and to register.

Ecological restoration is a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and reestablishing healthy ecosystems. Successful habitat restoration ensures that native species are protected while non-native species are removed with minimal impact. Nationwide, invasive plants cost us an estimated $33 billion per year. Invasive plants degrade wildlife habitat – they are the second-greatest threat to endangered species, after habitat destruction.

Back to Natives strives to involve the community in the process of ecological restoration and conservation because it believes that a little “ecological enlightenment” and a chance to “get your hands dirty” is the best way to improve relations between people and nature.

Back to Natives is Seeking Interns!

“My internship with Back to Native was so WONDERFUL and I love talking about it. The creative freedom you gave me was very empowering (and quite frankly spoiled me a little, LOL).” - Kari Dahlgren, Communications Intern
“My internship with Back to Native was so WONDERFUL and I love talking about it. The creative freedom you gave me was very empowering (and quite frankly spoiled me a little, LOL).” – Kari Dahlgren, Communications Intern

Back to Natives is seeking quality individuals to serve as Interns. Available internships include Horticultural Intern(Nursery Assistant), Landscape Design Intern, Habitat Restoration Intern, Communications Intern and Administrative Assistant Intern. Interested? Fill out and return the Employment Application.

Why do an Internship: Internships are very beneficial when searching for employment, or seeking entrance to college or graduate school. Internships are highly rewarding, work force training opportunities, which provide real world skills pertinent to many future positions and educational fields.

Thanks again for the letter of recommendation and for teaching me so much this summer. Working at BTN was a really, really great experience. –Amanda Carlson
Thanks again for the letter of recommendation and for teaching me so much this summer. Working at BTN was a really, really great experience. –Amanda Carlson

Why complete an Internship with Back to Natives? BTN Internship opportunities include a graduated level of training and experience within habitat restoration, native plant propagation, landscape design/installation/maintenance, and/or general nonprofit/organizational management and administration.

What sort of commitment does it take? Internships are available in 50 hour increments with a minimum of 8 hours required per week. Schedules will be set at the beginning of candidates’ internship cycle with a signed Intern Agreement. After a candidate has successfully completed 100 hours as Intern I they are qualified to apply for Intern II.

Are your internships paid? Not at this time. An Internship with Back to Natives Restoration is not a prerequisite to apply for employment, however it is highly recommended.

How do I apply? Applicants are required to submit a completed BTN Employment Application and Resume. BTN highly recommends that applicants attend at least one volunteer event before applying, so that applicants may have more of an understanding of what BTN does.

Cindy ArnoldOur Interns have great things to say about us!

“My experiences at Back to Natives have given me my first experience with an environmental group and opportunities to gain knowledge that will help me in my future pursuits and challenges. Back to Natives staff’s leadership and hard work has shown me the passion and dedication that is needed in any endeavor, which I will remember in my career goals.” – Leigh Phan, Intern

“Wanted to say thank you for all of the kind words in the wonderful letter of recommendation you wrote! I am very grateful for all of your efforts and was even able to use the letter this week in my job search. I have really enjoyed interning at Back to Natives and have learned a great deal thanks to you.”– Cindy Arnold

Farewell to one of our Own

farewell elisabethBack to Natives says au revoir to one of its brightest workers.

Elisabeth Leblanc, 35, A French native, with a bachelor’s degrees in project management and sustainable development, has been interning as a “Site Manager,” with Back To Natives for roughly seven months. Her job includes organizing, overseeing projects, assisting with databases, BTN’s website, among other things.

Leblanc will be headed back to France soon. “I was offered a position to be a GIS (Geographical Information Software) project manager for all French administrations,” she said excitedly. “Back to Natives was a huge help in me getting the job. I just want to thank them,” Leblanc added.

While Leblanc will be leaving Back to Natives she is forever grateful for her time as a volunteer. “The people here are just so committed. Reginald is here all the time. Lori is working all the time. We have long-time volunteers that are here everyday we’re on site. The work never ends.”

Leblanc offers some advice for the person taking over her position. “Take one thing at a time. We’re working on so many projects, just never lose sight of what you want to do.”

Back to Natives isn’t just a non-profit organization. Everyone involved from staff, interns, and volunteers treat each other like family. “I’m really glad I had the opportunity to work here. I love working with people that are so passionate and community oriented. I really hope I’ll be able to come back,” Leblanc said.  Back to Natives hopes so too. – Darrell King, BTN Communications Intern