Schoenecker wins Volunteer of the Year award

Collin Schoenecker, son of Doug and Vera Schoenecker of New Prague, holds the plaque he recently received for the Volunteer of the Year award through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. (Submitted Photo)

"It feels great. I didn’t really expect it," said Collin Schoenecker about receiving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Volunteer of the Year award.

Collin, the son of Doug and Vera Schoenecker of New Prague, received the award during the Wednesday, Feb. 13, volunteer award dinner in Bloomington. Collin worked as an intern for the organization and was nominated by Mike Malling of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Malling explained Collin was chosen out of 30 volunteers.

"His work was excellent," said Malling, adding that Collin was also passionate, committed and showed leadership skills. "He just had this friendly professional attitude."

Collin worked for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District. It covers a 14-county area mostly in southern Minnesota. Collin, a 2008 graduate of New Prague High School, worked from May to November of 2012.

"I needed it to finish up my credits for school," said Collin, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota Mankato. He received a degree in recreation parks and leadership services with an emphasis on resource management and leisure planning management.

He did a variety of jobs, including prairie restoration, helping build fences, biological surveys and managing land. He put in 720 hours. He received a small stipend from Refuge Friends that helped with gas expenses.

"At times it was hard work. It wasn’t strenuous," said Collin. "I enjoyed doing it."

His passion for working in nature started when he was young.

"I grew up in the outdoors," said Collin, whose dad took him camping, hunting and fishing. "I knew when I was little what I wanted to do."