This week’s IamACE features Mercy Iyere, ACE Arizona Corps Member. Mercy had very little outdoor experience before coming to ACE and now she has learned so much during her time at ACE.
[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?
[MI]: I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I spent a good chunk of my life in the metro Atlanta area. Right before I came to ACE I graduated with a degree in geology from Georgia State University. I’m 23 and I’ve been with ACE since October, so about 5 months.
What motivated you to get into conservation?
Right after high school I considered doing Americorps NCCC for a while, but for various reasons decided against it. Having completed college, this is my next chance to do something like that, but I didn’t want to do NCC anymore, I wanted to do something more specifically related to the environment. And that’s when I found ACE, through the corps network.
Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge of your term so far?
My challenge was my first physically demanding hitch. My first few projects were seed-collecting and we didn’t use that many tools. But my third hitch was a fencing project in Saguaro. It was the first hitch I’d been one where we needed to use tools, we had a lot of hiking, it was very physical. The beginning was definitely a struggle because I wasn’t used to doing that kind of work. Before ACE, I wasn’t very outdoorsy. I’d only ever gone hiking a few times.
A highlight was when I was working on the Pinal County trails project. It was the first night that I made a fire 100% on my own. It was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve learned so much about being outdoors and being independent and proactive.”
Any plans for the future when you’re done with ACE?
No concrete plans right now. Hopefully I’ll get a job in environmental geology.
Do you think ACE has helped prepare you for the future?
Absolutely, because a lot of entry-level geology jobs are outside doing fieldwork. I think after ACE I can definitely handle working with equipment outside.
What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?
From other jobs that I’ve had and from other corps that I see, the thing that sets ACE apart is the variety. Not just the fact that there are new people coming in every single day, but we’re not limited to projects just in Arizona—we can work on projects all over the southwest. It’s unpredictable. That makes it pretty exciting.
Do you have any advice to people looking to join ACE or who are interested in conservation?
I’d say be adaptable, and be prepared to look on the bright side. For example, sometimes you have to wake up early in the morning and it’s cold and you’re annoyed. But if you’re focused on being annoyed, you’re not going to notice how beautiful the sky looks.