Madison Donohue with her bikeMadison Donohue didn’t waste time when she started the first of her two AmeriCorps terms with Rural Action. She pitched a bike tour to Environmental Education Director Joe Brehm, who immediately saw the potential of the idea.

Two years later, Madison is Rural Action’s Tourism Specialist, riding herd on the organization’s latest social enterprise, Appalachian Understories: Guided Experiences in Southeast Ohio.

“I knew I wanted to lead some sort of tourism effort,” Madison says. “I didn’t know how to do it. I followed my passion and figured it would blossom into what it should be, and it did.”

Madison earned an Ecotourism and Adventure Leadership degree at Hocking College and has worked in a variety of jobs in the area, including at Hyacinth Bean Florist, the Farmacy, Rising Appalachia Warriors, Camp Oty’Okwa, and Little Fish Brewing Company.

These jobs gave her deep connections to the community and heightened her environmental literacy and ability to interpret the natural world for others, she says.

“Working for the florist inspired a lot of my bike routes,” Madison says. “I would deliver the flowers and go through these winding hills, and knew I had to explore this place more.”

Madison’s AmeriCorps experience helped her acquire critical skills that augmented her degree. “I didn’t have a lot of professional experience when I graduated from Hocking,” she says. “I had guiding experience, but I didn’t really know how to behave professionally. AmeriCorps helped me build my professional skills and development.”

Between jobs at local businesses, Madison and her partner hiked 1,700 miles of the Appalachian Trail, falling short of the approximately 2,200 mile total because she became ill along the way. But it was during that trip she realized Southeast Ohio was where she wanted to be.

“My partner and I had no plans of what to do after our backpacking trip so we thought we’d find some cool trail town along the way, but we felt a deep sense of place in Southeast Ohio so we came back and have been here ever since.”