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12 AmeriCorps Sustainability Project Coordinators join CERTs

The Clean Energy Resource Teams recently welcomed 12 Sustainability Project Coordinators! These teammates join us as part of a special AmeriCorps project. In 2022, CERTs worked with the AmeriCorps’ Climate Impact Corps to offer this new opportunity. In the first year of the program, we welcomed six Sustainability Project Coordinators, and we're thrilled to grow the program! 

AmeriCorps is the federal agency for national service and volunteerism. It provides opportunities for volunteer members to address the nation's most pressing challenges, and improve lives and communities. CERTs, the Great Plains Institute, and the University of Minnesota Extension, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships are hosting Sustainability Project Coordinators to focus on improving sustainability in communities across Minnesota. Several coordinators have been hard at work since August supporting community-driven projects, building local partnerships, encouraging local environmental action, and providing education to help households decrease energy costs.

Maren Butenhoff - Central region

Maren Butenhoff

Maren graduated from Concordia College in 2019 with an art degree and a concentration in graphic design. Studying and working abroad introduced her to the strides other countries have made with sustainability initiatives, and inspired her to enroll in a master's degree in sustainable design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She uses her education and experiences to support rural Minnesota communities with sustainability initiatives — specifically reducing energy burden of underserved communities and outreach around solar for schools.

In her down-time Maren loves to read, swim (in the warmer months), create art, and spend time with friends and family.

Faye Düster - Northeast region

Faye Duster

Faye graduated from Luther College with an environmental science and chemistry degree. She spent a year volunteering in Washington state, then working in southern California, and finally exploring Argentina and Chile. Now back in Minnesota, her work supports community resilience in rural and underserved communities. Examples include, educating construction professionals about net zero design, conducting soil tests for a community garden, and assisting in the expansion of forest assisted migration efforts.

Faye is an avid knitter, baker, singer, and reader. She enjoys being outside as much as possible and is excited to buy a new set of skis for the long Duluth winter!

Dominic Erickson - Northwest region

Dominic Erickson

Dominic joins us in his second year as a Sustainability Project Coordinator for the Northwest region. In his work, he researches the ways sustainability and social equity projects can intertwine, focusing on vulnerable communities in rural Minnesota. He is intrigued by how people of different backgrounds send and receive new information, especially in the Midwest. He likes connecting with new people and chatting about the things they enjoy.

In 2022, Dominic graduated from Concordia College with a degree in communication studies and multimedia journalism. Some of his most rewarding experiences came from his time as a writer and the editor of the school newspaper, The Concordian. 

Dominic is a devoted film enthusiast and unwinds by listening to music. He resides in Moorhead, and has lived in western Minnesota all his life.

Jerry Goodrich - Southeast region

Jerry Goodrich

Jerry shared his excitement on joining the AmeriCorps group, and he’s “looking forward to the challenges it brings, and the people I will work with and meet.” He spent 19 years as an engineer at IBM, and then ventured into different management roles at Olmsted County, Rochester Public Schools, Altra Federal Credit Union, and US Bank. He spent the last few years contracting for Celestica and IBM.

Jerry’s claim to fame around Rochester is something he’s done for more than 40 years — he’s the starter at the Rochester Running Club’s track meets, every summer. He and his wife have four children and four grandchildren.

Jacob Hansen - Central region

Jacob Hansen

Jacob traces his interest in environmentalism back to Cub Scouts and planting trees on Arbor Day. Since then his drive and commitment to land stewardship grew and led him to a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Luther College. 

Jacob’s commitment to protecting the natural resources will guide his AmeriCorps work, as he looks to pursue a career in groundwater protection. 

Jacob enjoys working with his hands and time spent outdoors, especially in his favorite season, winter!

Katherine Inman - Southeast region

Katie Inman

Katie hails from Florida and holds a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation services from the University of Wisconsin, Stout. She is passionate about disability access and holds a wealth of knowledge and resources related to hearing and vision loss. Her eagerness to learn and make an impact was showcased when she presented clean energy resources to the Minnesota chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in November 2023. 

Katie enjoys networking with both people and animals, and she loves all things nature, books, new experiences, and adventure.


Natalie Lavenstein - Northeast region

Natalie Lavenstein

Natalie relocated to Duluth after completing her B.S. in environmental and sustainability studies with a minor in political science from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. She’s inspired by the beauty of northern Minnesota, a big change from the desert valley of Utah. 

Natalie is dedicated to supporting sustainable and resilient communities across myriad projects in northeastern Minnesota, including a multi-county composting and recycling feasibility study, workforce development for sustainable home building, planning for an extensive expansion of a community garden, and building solutions on burnout among healthcare professionals in rural communities.

Natalie spends her free time viewing Lake Superior, dreaming of adopting a dog, listening to her favorite band (Tame Impala), and cooking up scrumptious dishes at home.

Rachel Mitchell - Southwest region

Rachel Mitchell

Rachel was a science teacher for six years and worked in youth development for another two before becoming an AmeriCorps member. She grew up on a farm in Lac qui Parle County but now resides in New London. She is honored to be serving the rural region she calls home. 

Rachel’s work is focused on supporting underserved communities with energy outreach, such as the Eco Fair project in the Willmar area that intends to engage community members on what they want their sustainable future to look like.

For Rachel, gardening is an all-season sport and involves seed-starting in the spring, tending to the plants in the summer, canning and preserving in the fall, and planning improvements in the winter for next year's crop. If she's not on the trails with her dogs and husband, you can probably find her reading non-fiction or on the court with her volleyball team.

Keely Rau - Metro region

Keely Rau

Keely supports projects that reduce energy burden for underserved communities, including equitable solar access for underserved businesses, supporting manufactured home park communities and food shelves with energy efficiency resources.

She has a business administration degree from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse with time spent in environmental studies coursework. She recently worked in the food cooperative space at Linden Hills Co-op and the Wedge Co-op. Keely is curious about clean energy initiatives and looks forward to building networks within the community. Her goal is to find a career path that "allows her strengths to shine and is involved within the community."

She grew up in Minneapolis and has visited the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every year for the last six years. Keely also enjoys reading, biking to breweries, camping (even in the winter), and taking her pups on adventures.

Katilynn Swanson - Southeast region

Katilynn Swanson

Katilynn is excited to return for another year of AmeriCorps work serving in southeast Minnesota. She continues to support initiatives that work within food systems and with underserved communities, especially projects that address the food security needs.

Katilynn graduated from Luther College with a B.A. in sociology, focused on the intersection between sociological systems, policy, and social justice. She is passionate about applying systems thinking to her work in order to address the complex barriers of the underserved communities and enjoys supporting projects that empower communities to have a say in their outcomes.

In her free time she fawns over her cats, reads from her ever-growing to-read list, and bakes new recipes to share with her friends and family.

Taylor Wyum - Northwest region

Taylor Wyum

Taylor’s B.S. in environmental studies from the University of North Dakota includes minors in geology and sustainability science. She also earned a Professional Science Master's degree in climate science and solutions from Northern Arizona University. 

Taylor focuses on connecting rural and underserved communities with resources to increase their resilience such as funding opportunities, weatherization assistance, and people who can help navigate the processes. 

Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her dog, two cats, family, and friends. Taylor is an avid reader, loves to bake, care for her houseplants, and go camping.


Kyle Young - Metro region

Kyle Young

Kyle’s focus is on expanding electric vehicle resources and use, as well as various local government clean energy projects. 

Prior to his AmeriCorps service, Kyle completed a B.S. in sustainable systems management from the University of Minnesota. He plans to apply the skills gained from this degree to help people better understand available resources and to support the development of the EV Smart Native Nations program.

He takes a special interest in learning about new and upcoming technologies such as self-landing rockets, autonomous driving, and asteroid mining, and in his free time Kyle enjoys listening to music, watching sports, or playing with his two cats.

Watch for news and stories to come from these ambitious and talented coordinators! 

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