First Day of School


by Tiara Johnson  

The morning of September 21st was reminiscent of the first day of school. As a fresh group of 30 First Years trickled through the ERTHQ doors, we sat anxiously at the tables having the same conversation over and over again… Where are you from? What did you do before this? Why did you join the program? Kathleen proceeded to break up the day’s presentations with “1 Minute Stories” – an elevator pitch of sorts where we attempted to describe ourselves under the heat of the clock.

By the end of the week, I was able to rattle off everyone’s name, where they lived, and where they came from. At that point I knew we had a diverse crew hailing from East Coast to West Coast and even abroad coming to St. Louis, some from fresh out of high school and others years on the job. Some came for career prospects; others came for a new adventure. All these new facts about my team members intrigued me. However, I realized that I did not really know that much about everyone… I knew just the tip of the iceberg.

It wasn’t until Montana that it all got real... Once we got on the road , everyone set down their guards and slowly shared themselves. We got to know the real side of each other through intellectual conversations about everything from renewable energy, human rights, religion, and politics on the 3-day car ride to yelling Irish Gigs at the top of our lungs as we attempted to beat sunset on the trail to talks about alien life and bears by the campfire. My teammates also taught me new things. In the first week I learned how to identify trees, how to use martial art moves to take down an opponent with just a handshake, and more about hidden values of Buddhism. Perhaps the most memorable (due to frequency) were my numerous conversations about poop.

After just one week in such close proximity, it became clearly evident that we will get to know more about each other over the next 10 months than I know about some of my dear friends. We will serve together, cry together, and most importantly laugh together.


Photo by Tiara Johnson

First Two Weeks in ERT

by Dan Faris  

The first two weeks of ERT can only be described as a whirlwind. Traveling to a new city, meeting all new people, learning about the program, and riding out to Montana have made this an eventful period of time. This program is unlike any other program I've been in. Everyone here is so accomplished and brings a unique skill set to the team. This almost feels like an AmeriCorps All-star team. I've already made some pretty good friends and look forward to getting to know other people more. I look forward to working with everyone in the upcoming year.

Traveling and serving in Montana has also been an amazing experience. Montana is so beautiful and very different from where I grew up in New Jersey. Here, you can look out for miles and miles and not see one sign of human life. I have enjoyed my time hiking mountains and being out in the woods so far. New Jersey was much too crowded for my liking so it is nice to be out here with space and fresh air.

Going through all the ERT trainings so far has gotten me very excited about the year to come. I cannot wait to get out there and start doing things. I know this year will have many ups and downs and will be full of surprises but I believe I have the fortitude to survive in this program. There will be times that I have to rely on my teammates to get me through but in return I am willing and ready to lend a hand right back. Together we are strong and can accomplish our goals.

An Unexpected Offering


by Alex Smith


On the way up to Montana we were stopped at a gas station to fill up the convoy. While a couple of us were standing around, a gentleman came up and began to talk to us. He was a local pastor and wanted to thank us for all the wonderful work we were doing and appreciated the effort we were putting in. He joked with us and talked with us for a few minutes, said he would pray for us and we'd be in his thoughts, and went back to his car. At this point, we hadn't done any work. We had just been learning in classrooms and driving. But the program itself is what he was talking about, and he wanted to thank us because of the great history of service that the St. Louis ERT has. Even though we hadn't accomplished anything of our own yet, we all felt incredibly honored and privileged to be a part of a program that receives such positive praise and admiration from people in the local area and surrounding states. For me, at least, that meeting filled me with resolve and pride in what I was doing, and strengthened my determination to give the upcoming weeks in Montana my all.

Alex In Montana

First Time Camping


by Emily Jack


On the night of September 28th, I had my first big Montana adventure-camping! Believe it or not, this was my first time ever sleeping outside in a tent...and it was quite an experience to say the least. As we sat around the fire at Fleecer Cabin, making S'mores and listening to Bruce's stories, I excitedly told anyone who would listen about how my parents never wanted to take my younger brother and myself camping as children; how they refused to view sleeping on the ground for a week with no amenities as a vacation-thus depriving me of what I had always seen as an essential rite of growing up. All of my friends went camping with their families, so it couldn't have been that bad right? Well, as I laid down in my sleeping bag a few hours later, clad only in two layers (long underwear with PJ's on top) I all at once came to the decision that perhaps they had been onto something. I was fairly comfortable on my blow up sleeping mat and mummy bag, but my naturally cold body temperature combined with the frosty 20 degree Montana night made sleeping impossible. I could not get myself to warm up at all, my attempt at throwing a blanket on top of my face resulted in the condensation from my breath freezing over and sticking to it, and I was so frigid that I did not want to give up what little protection my sleeping bag was giving me to throw on more clothes. Needless to say, the next morning I crawled out of my tent, bleary eyed and wondering why I didn't listen to my parents.

As the days went on, and some of the older members of the Corps learned of my struggle, I was gifted with advice, tips (and even a sleeping bag liner!) on how to keep warm in a tent. I began to wear more layers of clothing, including hats, gloves and even winter jackets, was shown how to better insulate my tent, and even experimented with a homemade solar panel. (It didn't really work, but I was proud of my innovation!) In the end, I grew to enjoy the simplicity of living in nature, and the peaceful quiet that comes along with camping. That night was my very first challenge, and I am proud of myself for sticking it out. I know that there will be many more trying experiences throughout this year, and I now feel as if I am much better prepared for them, all because of one night in a tent. After all of this, I am both nervous and excited to see what the future in this program holds for me.

Tents At Fleecer