From Fellows to Staff Members

Some of our staff started their journey with Save The Bay as participants in the Fellowship Program. Our organization benefits greatly from having support from our Fellows, and when a variety of factors fall into place, a few Fellows have been able to step into open positions on our staff. It’s a great feeling when we’ve gotten to know these individuals professionally and personally as Fellows, and then they have the opportunity to join the team for more long-term opportunities.  Read on for some inside perspective of what it’s been like to both be a Fellow and staff member at Save The Bay.

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Ethan Tucker is our newest addition to the staff, taking action as a Temporary Policy Associate with the Policy Team. He’s a native of Connecticut and has a great community of friends from school who have also relocated to the Bay Area.

Rachelle Cardona owns the longest title on staff as the Restoration Education and Community Engagement Specialist, acting as the organizer of all of our public and private Restoration Programs. A biologist at heart, she loves animals and has learned all about wetland plant species with ease.

Vivian Reed worked with us as a Fellow in 2012. Three years later, she returned to Save The Bay’s communications team as our Communications Assistant. Vivian now manages the same Facebook account that originally attracted her to the Fellowship.

How did you find out about the Save The Bay Fellowship Program?

Ethan: I first contacted Paul Kumar, Political Director at Save The Bay. I found him through the alumni directory at Wesleyan and knew I was interested in environmental policy. He told me about the environmental atmosphere in the Bay Area and the Fellowship program. He mentioned that Allison Chan, our Clean Bay Campaign Manager, needed a Fellow for her program, so I applied. I wanted to see what that world was like.

Rachelle: I had been looking for environmental causes to devote my time to while I was working, and my mom pointed me to Save The Bay. I signed up for a volunteer program at the nursery and after working with the plants, I was super fired up and asked the people leading the program, “Do you have any internship or volunteer opportunities?” Right at that time, they were switching between Fellowship sessions.

Vivian: I stumbled upon the Save The Bay Facebook page and Liked it, honestly, without giving it much thought. It wasn’t until one day when I saw their post saying, “Do you want to do environmental communications? If so, apply now!” I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to expand on my interest in environmental conservation and learn how to communicate solutions to the environmental problems we face, so I applied.

When were you a fellow for Save The Bay, and when did you join the staff?

Ethan: I was a Fellow from October 2015 until February 2016. I worked with the Policy department, helping Allison with her projects: Trash and stormwater, green infrastructure, advocating for local ordinances, and other research projects. It’s awesome, I only picked up coffee for people twice during my Fellowship. I’ve been employed since mid-February 2016. Save The Bay has been a really good experience for me. I definitely have a wider set of skills and capabilities than when I first walked in the door back in October.

Rachelle: The Fellowship really set me up for an easy transition into the positions I’ve been in. I was a Fellow from October 2013 to December 2013 and was able to stay on as a Temporary Restoration Project Specialist. In February 2014, a full-time position opened up and I was honored to fill the Restoration Education Specialist position. As a Fellow, I pushed hard in the field and delivered my best, and the Restoration Team took notice of the qualities I possessed, thinking they would be beneficial for the team. That was right out of college, too. I was expecting nothing to happen after Save The Bay and to have to make smoothies or do something not related to environmental work, so it was encouraging.

Vivian: I started in March 2012 and ended my stint in late August 2012 with the Communications department. My position started in January of last year.

As a volunteer in the office, what was your perspective on STB during your Fellowship?

Ethan: It was interesting to see the different aspects there are to running a non-profit and to be with an organization that’s doing so many different things with their work.

Rachelle: I thought Save The Bay was a really influential organization to work for. As a Fellow, when I said I had an internship style position at Save The Bay, people were amazed and really interested in the work that I was doing. People were really interested in what Save The Bay was spearheading as an organization, which is a longstanding effect of Save The Bay being an older, regional and impactful organization.

Vivian: Prior to volunteering with Save The Bay, I had no idea that San Francisco Bay almost ceased to exist. The story of how Save The Bay began still moves me today, as much as it did the first time I learned about it on day one. While we now think of them as pioneers, our founders were just ordinary people like you and me who simply wanted to solve a problem. I’ve always wanted to be aligned with an organization that makes a difference, and working here at Save The Bay fulfills my sense of purpose.

Our Fellows participate in a wide range of projects, activities, and experiences during their time with our organization. They help host volunteer programs at our wetland restoration sites, meet policy partners to move ideas into action, bond with staff on our annual events, and much more. Tell me about a memorable experience from your Fellowship session, and why it stands out.

Ethan: Two memorable experiences were the Fellowship planting day and all-staff planting day. They were great experiences, to be on the water and get the chance to interact with other staff members that I hadn’t normally interacted with on a day-to-day basis.

Rachelle: The going away party for our former Restoration Program Manager was memorable. I had been with Save The Bay for maybe a month, and in Habitat Restoration Team style, everyone on the team had to memorize the song and dance to “What Does the Fox Say?” and perform it in the bar we were in. I barely knew any of these people and it was slightly embarrassing, but it also showed the culture at Save The Bay: How friendly everyone is, and when it comes down to it, how goofy and fun loving we are. That was my first memorable experience having to do with the culture at Save The Bay.

Vivian: Outside of dancing in a mascot costume, I still remember the 20 minute presentation I gave to the staff about my contributions to Save The Bay. Not only was it great way to end my Fellowship experience and reflect on what I had learned in the course of 6 months, but I think it also demonstrated the value of having this organizational program.

What are some of your primary responsibilities or tasks?

Ethan: My daily tasks change a lot. I’ve been analyzing the annual trash reduction reports with an app and updating our supporters on the status of the Zero Trash, Zero Excuse campaign. In the last month, I’ve been helping advocate for the smoking ban in East Bay Regional Parks (EBRP). That has involved a lot of writing letters of support for the policy up for adoption, and doing outreach to other environmental groups, tobacco prevention groups, and the EBRP Board of Directors.

Rachelle: My primary responsibilities include coordination of all of our volunteer programs, corporate programs, education programs, public programs: all of the programs! With the education programs specifically, I’m also in charge of maintaining our curriculum. Most of the work around that is understanding the recent changes in scientific standards for California and how our program can fit that and support the teachers. I also manage a lot of the Salesforce database responsibilities for our team, keeping track of the volunteer data and supplying that info to other parts of our organization.

What drives you to do environmental work as your professional career?

Ethan: I’ve always loved the outdoors and nature, and protecting it is a big priority for me. It’s really important to protect the environment. I’m also interested in politics so I think it’s a great way to do something to make the world a little better.

Rachelle: Sharing knowledge, that’s the most exciting part about working with so many people. By coordinating their events, it’s an opportunity for us to spread knowledge in our region about the Bay, the threats facing it and what we can do to combat them. The hope that we can spread an environmental stewardship-based knowledge and drive within our region is really what keeps me going.

Vivian: When I grew up, the outdoors was a big part of my life.  As I got older, it became a place for me to relax and do what I enjoy most, which is going on hikes and landscape photography free of distraction. I’m always mindful that I can’t take what I enjoy doing for granted because it may go away.  That realization is what inspires me to work for an environmental organization.

Do you have any advice for future Fellows?

Ethan: It’s definitely worth doing! There have been a lot of opportunities to explore the different things I was interested in, to see the different aspects of STB’s work, and to dive in and get a lot of hands-on, deep experience. I’m happy to be here.

Rachelle: Treat your fellowship as one big long interview by continually working hard and putting forward your best work and best effort in everything you’re doing. In my doing that, it has definitely paid off. And volunteering, if you give your time and are passionate and devoted, there’s often times a next step to continue down that road. This is also a really good opportunity to get to see how an organization like this works.

Vivian: We want to make sure everyone gets the most out of their fellowship experience. I find that Fellows who are curious, open to learning new things, and take on unique projects get the most out of this program.  There’s a lot to learn at Save The Bay and a lot of room to grow professionally, but sometimes an experience like this can even set you up for a future you didn’t even predict.

Learn more about the Save The Bay Fellowship Program and apply here.