By Mary Penna/ECHO  Note: This is the first in a multi-part series meeting the personalities that make ECHO special. There’...

Faces of ECHO


By Mary Penna/ECHO 

Note: This is the first in a multi-part series meeting the personalities that make ECHO special.

There’s no better place than a science center to practice alternative forms of education.
“Non-traditional forms help to form personal skills, life skills, and help to ensure that people know how to apply their skills to the real world” said Amanda Van Vranken, the volunteer coordinator at ECHO.
Amanda strongly believes in alternative forms of education. Volunteering, interning, and building real job skills in a field help to build character and increase job prospects.
Amanda was first introduced to ECHO when she visited years ago with her twins. She thought the science center had a great atmosphere and coincidentally saw that they were looking to hire a part time volunteer coordinator, which combined her interests with her firm beliefs.
“Part of the magic of ECHO is definitely the volunteers and interns,” she said. “We have a small staff and so they really support our programming, working with visitors on the floor and many things we do behind the scenes to have a successful organization.”
The volunteers at ECHO are a great group of dedicated people that are genuinely interested in ECHO’s mission in making a difference. They share a love for the natural world and proceed to share their love of learning with ECHO’s guests.
There are three ways to volunteer at ECHO: through animal care, education, and for its partners, such as the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least one 4-hour shift per week, for three months or longer. Often times the volunteer works more than one shift or even decides to come back season after season.
The program works with high school students, college students, and those semi-retired or retired. Some join the team because they are new to the area, are looking for job experience/school credit, or to find a greater sense of community. Others just like the mission statement of ECHO. These volunteers and interns will first get a general orientation and then split off into department training. As they become more independent and knowledgeable about their jobs, ECHO will give them more responsibilities.
Volunteers at ECHO are as young as 16 and as old as 86. They range in age, background, experience, culture, education, but they all bring excitement and energy to the public every day. A huge part of ECHO is the personality behind each staff member, volunteer and intern. 
Over the next two weeks, I will interview five different volunteers and write about their unique backgrounds and lives at ECHO.

Keep checking back for more of this ongoing series.

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