Mandy Bonilla & Jeannine Louro, Commonwealth Corps Environmental Educators
For the fifth year, the Coalition is hosting two service members through the Commonwealth Corps, a state-funded initiative to engage Massachusetts residents in direct service to address unmet community needs. New Bedford residents Mandy Bonilla and Jeannine Louro have joined more than 50 other Commonwealth Corps members serving communities across the state.
A native of New Jersey, Mandy is eager to transition from her role in the classroom as a high school math tutor into the field as an environmental educator on Buzzards Bay. “I hope that I can help spread awareness of the Bay’s condition and the work the Coalition does to help protect our region’s environment,” she said.
After teaching environmental education in Florida, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, Jeannine is back home in New Bedford to bring her educational experience to local kids and families. “I’m excited to finally be able to teach within my own community bringing the knowledge and skills I have acquired to my hometown,” she said.
Leah Howard, Ben Hyland & Michaella Sheridan, MassLIFT-AmeriCorps Members
The Coalition is also a host site for MassLIFT-AmeriCorps, which is focused on accelerating the pace of land conservation across Massachusetts.
Though she’s a native of Maine, Buzzards Bay already holds a special place in Leah Howard’s heart. Her grandfather grew up on the Bay, and her great, great grandfather served as a lighthouse keeper at Wings Neck. As land stewardship coordinator, Leah will help the Coalition in its efforts to conserve and restore important natural areas around the Bay, such as coordinating the volunteer Adopt a Reserve program. “Serving at the Coalition will allow me to use my skills to improve and protect lands not only for environmental needs, but so future generations can be inspired by its natural beauty and the symbiotic relationships within it,” Leah said.
Through a partnership with the Wareham Land Trust, the Coalition also hosts two service positions focused on education and community engagement in Wareham and across the Buzzards Bay region. Ben Hyland of Hanover is serving as youth education coordinator and Michaella Sheridan of Lowell is serving as community engagement coordinator with the Coalition and the Wareham Land Trust.
“This position offers me an opportunity to not only become more familiar with the local ecosystems and natural beauty of the South Coast, but also the capacity to grow as a professional conservationist and become more integrated into the community,” said Ben, who will be helping lead educational programs for kids in schools, at camps and after-school programs, and during Bay Adventures.
Michaella will help keep the Buzzards Bay community connected to outdoor exploration through blog posts, social media, and Bay Adventures throughout the year. “I am really excited to learn what it takes to connect with the community and keep them involved in these important environmental efforts that ultimately affect every person and creature in the watershed,” she said of her service role.