Kaitlyn Deskins is an Appalachian Forest Heritage Area AmeriCorps member serving at the West Virginia Division of Forestry in Elkins.
Endings are often not what we expect – graduations, retirement, the end of your favorite show. These endings are supposed to be joyful, but more often than not they just beg the question, what happens next?
This is the position Kaitlyn Deskins found herself in after graduating college with a degree in Geology from the University of Southern Indiana one year ago.
Kaitlyn grew up on 13 acres of land in Indiana. She was an only child living with her mom and dad and a bunch of cats and dogs. Her dad worked for a Walmart Distribution Center in Indiana, while her mom used her Travel and Tourism Certification to work as a Travel Authority Agent.
During Kaitlyn’s senior year of high school, her mom was diagnosed with stage four Ovarian Cancer.
Despite the adversity of her senior year, Kaitlyn carried on and attended college as a first-generation student. She wanted to study natural sciences but wasn’t sure of the specifics. She spent some time studying environmental science, but later switched to geology when she learned it provided her with more opportunities.
Though her mom is now cancer-free, it was a reminder of the fragility of life, so her parents packed up and left their life-long home in Indiana to be where her mom always wanted to be: by the beach. Now, her parents live in southern Alabama.
Four years later it was 2020, she had a college degree, and she didn’t know what was going to come next.
She and her friends applied for various entry-level positions. She struggled to find something that interested her and something she wanted to commit to. When she found AmeriCorps, it felt like the right place to be for her next year, so she applied.
When she applied for a service position with Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA), she was able to report her top five choices. Her first was Seneca Rocks, but she was contacted by her current position in Elkins first, so she took it and ran with it.
"I like that I got to have this experience, I’ve gotten to learn so much," she said.
Though it was not what she originally planned, it’s where she feels like she was meant to be, and it’s paving the way for her future.
It was at a meeting to plan an event with her current AFNHA AmeriCorps member position that she met a professor from West Virginia University. After meeting her, he shared an opportunity with her: a master’s degree from WVU in forestry. Not one to say no, Kaitlyn jumped at the opportunity. So, starting in the fall of 2021, she will be moving to Morgantown to pursue a Master’s in Forestry; an opportunity she would never have even known about had she not joined AmeriCorps.
Her time in the past year has been spent both teaching and learning. She teaches adults and children about the West Virginia forests. She creates trails, leads tours, works on new projects. She also spreads awareness about the importance of forests and taking care of our land.
While forestry is not the direction she intended on taking, it still fulfils her interest in natural sciences, and she is excited to take the next step and receive her master’s degree. After she gets her degree, she hopes to stay in West Virginia and work for the West Virginia Division of Forestry, where her role would be similar to what she is doing now.
During her time here, Kaitlyn has grown to love West Virginia. Living in Elkins has been different than the quiet life she lived on her family’s 13 acres of land in Lexington, Indiana, but she has learned to enjoy the hustle and bustle of small-town life.
Endings are hard. They’re sad and scary, maybe even unwanted. But they’re how we grow, learn, and find our passions. Kaitlyn is an example of how following your gut can turn an ending into a new beginning and maybe even provide you and opportunity to lend a hand along the way.
AmeriCorps offers a vast array of opportunities and can help you turn your ending into something beautiful.
AmeriCorps, a federal agency, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges, through national service and volunteering. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve with organizations dedicated to the improvement of communities. AmeriCorps helps make service to others a cornerstone of our national culture. Learn more at https://americorps.gov/.