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KAEE Member Feature: Julia Gerwe

Most people desire to share what they are passionate about with the world, and for KAEE member, Julia Gerwe, that desire is a part of her daily job description! In her role, Julia works to partner with non-profit organizations around the Commonwealth to expand environmental education access to all Kentuckians. We’ve asked her to share a little bit of her journey with KAEE.

KAEE: What is your current role?

Julia: I currently serve as Member Coordinator with the Environmental Education Leadership (EEL) Corps AmeriCorps Program with the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC). I live in Frankfort, and am enjoying settling into my new Frankfort community after recently relocating from Nelson County, KY (Bardstown).

KAEE: What projects or programs are you working on that particularly inspire you?

Julia: I am continually inspired by the EELCorps AmeriCorps program and the budding professionals in the field who serve with us. Through EELCorps, we partner individuals with non-profit organizations throughout the state (parks, government agencies, schools/universities, etc.) to increase their capacity for EE. This year, we've really grown the capacity of the EELCorps program to welcome and support members throughout their year of service, offering a breadth of personal and professional development opportunities to support their ongoing EE journey. This program, and those that dedicate their time to serve with us, continually inspire me!

I am also inspired by grassroots, community action organizations working toward greater sustainability education in Kentucky. One such example is New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, with whom I serve as a member of the Board. New Pioneers is working hard in Nelson, Marian, and Washington Counties to promote greater sustainability awareness, as well as advocating and demonstrating sustainable living. The organization has been in a state of transition for a few years (and survived a pandemic!) and is stronger and more well positioned as ever to continue this important work alongside their communities.

KAEE: What goals do you have for your organization or programs within the EE field?

Julia: In my work with EELCorps, it is my goal that more folks know about and recognize our program - either by considering organizational participation, or by recommending participation as an EELCorps Member to those in their networks that may be looking for a position.

Personally, it is my goal to continue to root into Kentucky, and to utilize my passion for environmental education as a pathway toward greater community resiliency, unity, and action. I am known for being energetic and bubbly, and I strive to treat everyone with respect, love, and kindness as we build the communities and world we all want to share!

KAEE: What do you think is the most beneficial part of being involved in KAEE?

Julia: Becoming involved in KAEE during my AmeriCorps term allowed me to make rich connections in the field and simply learn about the breadth and scope of organizations and jobs within EE in Kentucky. On a personal level, my involvement in KAEE keeps me grounded in our state of Kentucky - allowing me to feel more rooted and connected to the people, issues, and solutions present around me. This leaves me feeling hopeful and less anxious about all of the challenges we face as a world!

Perhaps most of all, I appreciate the community that is KAEE. A community of support, resources, and expertise that is there for each other - to build up this field and greater access to EE and nature statewide! In writing this, I am realizing that my own relationship with KAEE has ebbed, flowed, and grown as I've evolved in this field and as a person. Necessarily so, the KAEE community is always flexible to involve those with the time/energy to contribute more, but also ready to accommodate those simply in need of resources and connections. This is a beautiful flexibility for a professional organization! I am so grateful to the KAEE team for fostering this, and to the KAEE network for welcoming all with open arms.

KAEE: Would you like to share a fun fact or tidbit about yourself with the group?

Julia: I am originally from Northern Kentucky, and hail from a big extended family (Italian and German immigrants!). I graduated from Saint Louis University in 2020 with my BA in Political Science and International Studies, but the COVID hiring freeze led me to land back in my home land of Kentucky serving alongside the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in AmeriCorps. My time at Nazareth inspired my newfound passion for environmental education and conservation - especially fostering individuals' connections to nature to lead toward greater civic action to protect the world around us. Through my journey, I've found that my passion for people directly connects to my passion for the planet - and that working toward greater sustainability has the potential to unite us beyond all else.

Outside of work, I love to craft/DIY, cook and bake (especially pies!), read, and play board/card games. I'm always a sucker for a good hike in nature, and I've gotten more into backpacking and running in recent years. Other than that, I love to spend time with my kitty, Charlotte!

KAEE: Julia was also featured as a guest writer for the NAAEE blog last month. You can read her post: Finding Meaning Along the Journey of Service, here.


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