Matt’s passion for the environment and conservation spans back to his time playing in the hills and woods of Tennessee and north Mississippi as a kid. This love for the outdoors eventually led to pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. One day, after a geography lecture on Quaternary Research, an AmeriCorps recruiter from the Student Conservation Association came to class to talk about trail crew opportunities. Matt was smitten with the idea and raced to the library immediately after class to apply. In the ensuing years Matt has performed conservation work in California, Arizona, Utah, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. While he is no longer out in the field or on the trail every day, Matt’s passion for the outdoors and engaging communities in meaningful work has only grown
Kelsey Durr (she/her/hers) joined Southeast Conservation Corps in 2021. She is originally from the Greater Philadelphia Area and has previously worked with AmeriCorps NCCC, The Student Conservation Association New Hampshire Corps, and the Colorado Mountain Club. Kelsey continually strives to foster leadership, growth, and development within young adults. Kelsey is a member of the Green Team at Conservation Legacy and has spearheaded composting efforts with SECC crews. Outside of work, she enjoys live music, hiking, biking, eating meals made with love, and finding the best donuts in America.
Allison (she/her/hers) heard “work and live outside” in 2017, sold all her belongings and moved herself and her cat from her hometown in Lynchburg, Virginia to Arizona, and hasn’t looked back since. She since then proceeded to work for SECC, CCNC, and the US Forest Service. Allison spent multiple years exploring different avenues of field-based conservation work while leading various crews. This inspired curiosity about the way ecosystems and humans work together and found a passion for mentoring people who want to engage hands on with conservation. With this line of work, she has traveled all over the country participating in trail building, firefighting, hazard tree felling, and other conservation projects. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with bread and dessert baking, roller-skating, travelling, and doing any sort of fresh or salt water related activity.
Caitlin Scott (she/her/hers) is originally from Montana and moved to Chattanooga in 2011 with her family. She has loved living in the area ever since. After working many years in the hospitality industry and managing a hotel, she decided to kick off her fitness journey to get in better shape. This had inspired her to become a certified personal trainer and train clients at a local YMCA where she also held the role of the Membership Retention Specialist. Caitlin joined the SECC team in October 2021 as the Administrative Specialist. She enjoys supporting and being a resource for staff and members. In her free time, she likes to lift heavy things for fun, cook, hike, and spend time with her partner, friends, and family.
Kahla Stewart (she/her/hers) was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN and graduated from Austin Peay State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. As a child, Kahla has always had a love for nature and how living and non-living working together interchangeably. With a family that has owned childcare facilities in the inner city for 20+ years, she has always been passionate about working with children, educating, and helping people in general. It wasn’t until her sophomore year in college that she realized that she wanted to figure out a way to incorporate education and community with nature. Upon graduating, Kahla worked in different administrative roles in higher education and in the Hamilton County School system. In the summer of 2019, she finally got the opportunity to do what she loved and put her degree to use. She became a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger at Tennessee State Parks. While stationed at Booker T. Washington State Park, Kahla educated park patrons, school groups, community groups, summer camps, and others on the importance of the great outdoors in many different capacities. Also, while serving in Tennessee State Parks, she completed three terms as an Appalachia Cares AmeriCorps member. In that time, she carried dual positions serving as an Interpretative Ranger in the park and a resident ranger at Ivy Academy. This later lead her into a full-time position at Ivy Academy that came to an end in the summer of 2022. Kahla is looking forward to her new role at Southeastern Conservation Corps as the Intern Program Coordinator. She is excited about supporting others in a field that she loves.
Lauren Simms (she/her/hers) is originally from the Philadelphia area, but recently moved to Chattanooga from Missoula, Montana. Lauren has been working in various field-based positions since her first season as a YCC member in Yosemite, CA in 2016. Bouncing from coast to coast during her college years, meeting great folks and learning new skills, she solidified her love for conservation. She settled in Montana after completing a degree in Environmental Studies at Lewis & Clark College in 2021. In Montana, she worked with the Selway Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation as a Lead Wilderness Steward in the Salmon-Challis National Foerst. Outside of conservation work, Lauren enjoys hiking, running, yoga, and canoeing.
My experience comes from many backgrounds but most importantly is my innate respect and love for our nature world. As a young child my place of Zen and overall favorite place to be, was simply in nature and on the move discovering. Those simple factors have determined the flow of life thus far. I have spent a much time working in the hospitality industry with my passion for people has been able to thrive. Working both domestically and internationally with my travels taking me through Central America, Puerto Rico and across the US. Those travels have been focused on sustainable tourism, culture & diversity, and community development. As of recent (2020) I had the great honor to receive and finish my BA in Parks and Recreation Mgt. from Western Carolina University. After graduation I worked with an international candy manufacturer that allowed me to see another side of recreation, one could say a sweet side. That experience led me to be in a very engaging and interactive aspect of their business that even further my desire to work with helping others. Taking the next step in my career journey I realized I was ready to work more alongside an organization that shared my values, practices, and passion for the great outdoors. I am thankful and excited to continue the work of SECC and to help connect others to career paths that are positively impactful to our lives and the world around us. May we leave the world a better place for those that come after us.
Things that move me – My dog Bear and cat Cleo, a good cup of coffee, people that recycle, laughing, growing a garden, a summer thunderstorm, a good storytelling podcast, all/any sports, gravy, crying during movies, working on cars, yoga, a clean house, watermelon in July, color theory, stars on a clear night, organization, live music, sunsets, kindness, seeing the ocean, crisp can of coke a cola, Alabama Crimson Tide, learning about other cultures, people that hug, The Blue Ridge Parkway, seeing people smile, green beans, moss, fires at night, and lastly seeing the beauty of the human connection.