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  • Writer's pictureReed Silvers

A Hometown Return to Serve and Learn

Reed Silvers, Sustainable Transportation Fellow, reflects on his journey into the Resilience Corps and the personal and professional growth experienced in his first two months of service.

Everyone has felt how quickly life can seem to go by. Being told by older adults that university will go fast is something all college students are used to. There is a reason it is such a cliché saying: it’s true. In the fall of 2022, I suddenly found myself in my final semester of university with my environmental planning degree finished. It came a semester earlier than planned and quicker than I ever would have imagined. Since undergraduate college was something I knew I wanted to complete from a young age, starting that December of 2022, for the first time in my life I would have no given direction. A full-time “career” job was a daunting thought I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue. Where would I live? What about graduate school? Would I like the job? After all, I wasn’t even meant to graduate this soon. Nevertheless, I didn’t want my professional skills and training in community and environmental planning to get too rusty. The Resilience Corps was the answer to my dilemma.

At first hearing of the Resilience Corps program, I did not know what to think. Given that it is an AmeriCorps initiative, I presumed it to be trail work, teaching, or forest fire management. That’s all I could think of when I hear “AmeriCorps.” My assumptions were quickly proved wrong. I soon discovered this unique program was rather an opportunity to complete an eight-month, full-time, fellowship in the field of environmental resiliency, while also completing service days with non-profits. As an added plus, GPCOG is in the tight-knit southern Maine community that raised me. I knew the fellowship would be a perfect chance to give back to my home state.

In my role so far, I have served by making maps and graphs, analyzing data, creating a section of a website, helping inform a transportation plan, and contributing to broadband expansion. Plus, beyond my assistance to GPCOG’s projects, I also have had the chance to volunteer for a day each with The Locker Project and the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition.

I am only two months into the Resilience Corps fellow role, and I have already learned so much. Not only have I gained knowledge of what regional and urban planners do, but I have realized there is important work being done in Greater Portland that does not get the attention it deserves. Despite growing up in the Portland area, I am only now learning the depths of the many local issues that GPCOG and non-profits work to eradicate every day. In my position, I have learned how traffic fatalities are on the rise in Maine and the U.S. and how our region is adopting the guidance of an international traffic safety campaign to save lives on our streets. I have learned that quality broadband access is not uniform, and expanding and improving it is an ongoing process for rural, suburban, and urban Mainers alike. I have learned of the constant asylum seeker flow into Portland and the great lengths GPCOG and other local agencies go to help families seeking refuge in our region. These issues are only a snapshot of the work GPCOG does across several sectors. To be involved in a regional planning organization working to solve pressing issues is very rewarding to me. Plus, the combination of mentorship, professional development, and hands-on volunteer work is something that only a unique program like the Resilience Corps could offer, and I am grateful for it.

Seeing the passion of Greater Portland community members, non-profit employees, and planning professionals firsthand has made me proud to call this community home. I have seen how citizens turn out for public meetings and contribute to online surveys to voice impassioned concerns and the vigorous efforts local governments take to respond to them. I have also noticed that a priority for every GPCOG project is inclusivity. Whether that be accommodating all users of a roadway, working to provide digital equity, or providing a safe place for immigrants from around the world, our region is welcoming to all. To me, there is no better place to start my career: a friendly region at the forefront of resiliency and social equity efforts.

The nature of this work is such that it is ongoing. The region will always face issues that need solving. When October comes around, I will have finished my term, but learning and service in other ways will never stop. In two months, I have already gained a new perspective of Greater Portland and expanded my knowledge of what service means. I hope to apply my newfound outlook throughout my tenure as a fellow and beyond.

About Reed

Reed holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning with a minor in Political Science from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. While his love of the outdoors drew him to the White Mountains for college, his heart lies with his home state of Maine, and he is excited to return to the Greater Portland community. Reed grew up in Cumberland, lived briefly in Raymond, and now resides in Portland. While he has had a passion for environmental sustainability since a young age, the love for his specific niche in GIS and sustainable city planning was discovered while taking urban geography courses in college. His experience as an intern at a New Hampshire regional planning commission further piqued his interest in the field. As a Resilience Corps Fellow, Reed is eager to help create pedestrian-safe streets, improve transit, and engage in the community. In his free time, Reed enjoys cross country and alpine skiing, hiking, camping, playing tennis, and frequenting Portland’s many cafes and restaurants.



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