2014 Corpsmember of the Year, Linda Santana

Linda Santana
AmeriCorps member – Rocky Mountain Youth Corps – Taos
Taos, NM

After graduating from college in 2009, Linda Santana decided to take a year off to figure out the next step in her life. At the suggestion of a friend, she began researching AmeriCorps programs and eventually applied to be an AmeriCorps member with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). Linda knew the Corps would be different from anything she had ever experienced, but she liked the idea of working outside and exploring new places.

Linda describes her first season with MCC as “life changing.” She returned to the Corps for a second season as an AmeriCorps Crew Leader and gained more personal insight and self-confidence. As the term came to an end, she realized she wasn’t quite ready to end her Corps experience; there was still a lot more she could learn in the conservation field. Though her time at MCC had been very rewarding, Linda knew she wanted to work in a new location and discover the opportunities available at a different Corps. This is what led her to Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (RMYC) in Taos, New Mexico.

During her time as an AmeriCorps member with RMYC, Linda has proven to be a phenomenal leader. She was the foundation for a crew that faced a great deal of adversity, including the loss of a supervisor. Though the members of her crew did not always show respect for each other, Linda maintained a positive attitude. As one of her supervisors said, “[Linda’s] personal standards and morals lead to a lifestyle comprised of healthy and admirable choices. As a mentor to many on her crew, she has exceeded the expectation of a mentor to offer herself as a friend and a pathway to experiencing sobriety and innocent means of passing the time.”

Linda has served as an ambassador for RMYC’s Youth Conservation Corps program. She has spoken in front of the New Mexico State Commission about her experiences with both RMYC and MCC.

“She understands the technical skills, but truly embodies that the true meaning of our work is personal growth and development,” said Maura Cassell, an RMYC Program Coordinator. “She is able to pass along this meaning of our work to her peers and she continuously serves as an influence and role model.”

One day, Linda hopes to become a bilingual outdoor educator. Working towards this goal, she voluntarily took on the role of Training Specialist at RMYC. She worked closely with staff to develop and carry out a variety of creative programs, including a course in which she taught Corpsmembers how to successfully complete a variety of fire training classes.

“I want to work in an outdoor environment where I can teach others, our youth in particular, about the importance of our land, why we should care for it and protect it, and about the impact we as individuals have on it,” said Linda.

In the future, Linda plans to return to school to receive her master’s degree in outdoor education. If it were not for her experiences with RMYC and MCC, however, she might have very different goals today.

“The Corps experience changed my life. It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, learn more about other places and provided me with the opportunity to explore beautiful places in our country I may otherwise have never seen,” said Linda. “It allowed me to work with a diverse group of people and learn technical skills, as well as soft skills, that have helped me grow as an individual.”