Mt. Blue grad providing aid to needy areas
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - From helping out after Hurricane Sandy to building fire breaks for homes in danger, a 2012 Mt. Blue graduate has found plenty of challenging opportunities with AmeriCorps.
A stand-out champion high school skier, Lucas Bonnevie, 18, of Farmington, wanted to take a year off to experience real life before starting college.
He got that and more.
After graduation, Bonnevie enlisted in the 10-month, volunteer federal AmeriCorps program. The nonprofit provides food, housing and an education stipend to volunteers across the country to work in a wide range of community service programs. The AmeriCorps program said on its website it seeks to create leaders and, "I agree with that," Bonnevie said on a break from his work at a Boys and Girls Club center in Anchorage, Alaska.
In the last year, Bonnevie was first assigned to Mendocino, Calif., northwest of Sacramento, to a center there, but was then suddenly summonsed to New Jersey to help out after Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard last year in late October.
"They called us to help and sent us to New Jersey," Bonnevie said. He worked at a call center to provide information on local food pantries, shelters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other resources to those hit hard by the hurricane.
After weeks there, he was sent to Forrest Hills, Calif., a redlands center due west of Sacramento, to work as an outdoor environmental educator at a camp for fifth- and sixth-grade students. He had to be quick at learning ecology and, Bonnevie said, he "really liked being a camp counselor."
After 11 weeks there, he was sent northwest to Grass Valley, Calif., for fire fighting duties. His job was to clear brush around homes, providing fuel breaks in case a wildfire should strike. He cut and piled brush 10 feet high, then torched it. He worked with a team of eight and found he really liked the work.
Most recently, he was sent to Anchorage, to work as a counselor at a Boys and Girls Club. He's been working with inner city children who need help and found it to be challenging work.
"It's the kids that need help and they can be tough to handle," Bonnevie said. He and his team of AmeriCorps volunteers create a welcoming environment and provide a place for children to go to.
"We try to do fun things, go on field trips with them, be their friends," he said. The children who come here often have parents who work all day and this provides a safe place for them.
Anchorage, a city of 300,000, is mostly bathed in daylight this time of year and that's something else to get use to. "People are really friendly and there's all the mountains. We're in the warmest stretch right now."
With three weeks left to go before returning home to Maine for the rest of the summer, Bonnevie said his AmeriCorps experience has been good.
"It shapes you in a different way than you might have thought possible. I feel I have a lot more leadership experience. This program says it creates leaders and I agree with that," Bonnevie said.
Once his tenure ends in a few weeks, he plans to spend the rest of the summer in Farmington before heading off of the University of Montana where he will be studying athletic training and physical therapy.
In high school, Bonnevie attended Carrabassett Valley Academy for three years before transferring to Mt. Blue for his senior year. In competition on the slopes for Mt. Blue, he won the regional Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title in both the slalom and giant slalom and finished first in the state's Class A giant slalom.
In his year of volunteering on both coasts, he said the people he's met "have been awesome." There were a few times along the way he wanted out when things got tough, but he stayed.
"It taught me determination. I never saw myself working with kids and now I see that's doable," Bonnevie said.