Written by SCA alumni and recruiting reps Beth McCarthy, and Deanna Wyatt.
The second extension of SCA's NPS Academy, a program designed to promote diversity within the National Park Service took place at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thirty students from across the US joined together to learn about conservation and the different divisions and opportunities within the National Park Service.
Enthusiasm among the students was amazingly high throughout the week. The days started early and went late and although there were a few stifled yawns each morning at breakfast, you didn't hear any complaints because the days were jam-packed with fun, engaging and exploratory opportunities to create enthusiastic future conservation leaders. The moon was often still out when we walked to breakfast.
One of the members commented, "I bet a lot of people don't get to see things like this because they stay in their car. I'm glad we are outside so we get to see this."
Wednesday was excursion day! Our morning was spent enjoying the beauty that is the Great Smoky Mountains. The group split into two where some went biking and others went hiking.
The bike trip included an eight mile bike ride with two other SCA staff and 10 members in Cades Cove, a site in the park that is visited by over two million visitors a year. The students made sure to stop and check out the sites along the ride. While we were taking our lunch break, we saw some animal tracks in the mud.
For 20 other members, the morning consisted of a two-mile hike to one of the Smoky's most scenic views, the Chimney Tops. Those two-miles was no walk in the park, unless your typical walk in the park consist of a 1300ft elevation gain and a bit of bouldering. Nevertheless, the reward was well worth the climb. Upon reaching the summit of the Chimney Tops Trail, we settled down to enjoy our lunch of tuna sandwiches against a beautiful background. The shared sentiment echoed among us was that this was one of the best lunches we had ever had... the tuna had nothing to do with it. But rather it was the enjoyment of the fruit of our efforts and doing so in the company of good people and spectacular views.
"This was my first time hiking, but it taught me a lifelong lesson to never giv eup going up the mountain...like in life, never give up no matter how steep it gets," said an NPS Academy member after hiking at the Smokys.
Thursday, we learned more about NPS careers, including search and rescue, fire, backcountry patrol, GPS and mapping, and the park natural collections. The NPS staff we met was enthusiastic to talk about their jobs, and the members enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at potential future careers.
Friday afternoon was Community Service Day, where the groups were able to participate in various projects around the area, including trail work and litter cleanup. We joined members as they interacted with kindergartners, first and second grade students at the local elementary school.
An Academy member and her two enthusiastic elementary students discover insects.
Each Academy member took on two students, and equipped with a shifter, aspirator, and a clipboard tallied the insects they "discovered" and set out to take a closer look at the world of insects in their own backyard.
An Academy member overlooks asstudents further investiage contents gathered via their aspirator, or better known to the elementary students as the "sucky-uppy thing."
Closing ceremonies, though bitter sweet, were full of laughs. Friday night kicked off with students sharing their field group presentations. Students boldly presented skits of their group themes to their peers, and to renowned members of the park service such as the NPS Southeast's regional director David Vela, the superintendent of Blue Ridge Parkway Phil Francis, Deputy Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains Kevin Fitzgerald, and Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains Dale Ditmanson.
It was definitely a week to remember for program participants. We found leaving Friday night hard to do. The bond that these students shared after only one short week and their enthusiasm for National Park Service careers was obvious. We had a long drive ahead of us, but our drive that night to the Chattanooga airport was made bearable by our reminiscing of moments with participants, the laughs over the closing skits, and our knowledge that this week was only the beginning of an amazing conservation career for these members.
Written by Evan Escamilla, SCA alum '10 and '11 and current SCA recruiter.
What an amazing couple of days it has been here in the Tetons! From Sunday, March 4th to Saturday, March 10th, a diverse group of students from all over the country descended upon Grand Teton National Park for the launch of the NPS Academy, a joint program by SCA and the National Park Service, aimed at building “a 21st century workforce for America’s national parks: highly motivated, contemporarily skilled and ethnically diverse.”
And what a week it was! The students were inspiring and inspired; The scenery was breath-taking; the wildlife awing…and a bit too close at times.NPS Deputy Director of Communications and Community Mickey Fern’s quote during one of the panel sessions captures how most people felt during the week, “Thank you for inviting me. It’s been the best four days of my life since I joined the park service.”
A group photo of NPS Academy 2012 members at Grand Teton National Park. This week marked the beginning of a personal and professional adventure for most of these students.
A bull elk at the National Elk Refuge from the horse drawn sleigh ride tour. The National Elk Refuge feed 5,000 - 7,000 elk at any given day this time of year. Elk come from as far as 70 miles away in Yellowstone to be fed. This controversial practices has been going on for 100 years as a way to manage the elk in search of food from coming into Jackson Hole. The elk have lost 75% of their habitat to humans.
Two bull elk engage in social clash of their antlers. As it is not yet mating season, there is no need for these elk to engage each other in a battle using up their energy. This bull elk were playfully wrestling with their antlers.
A heard of 50+ bison met us on the road after tubing. The students were all in the 3 vans behind me. I heard some bison even rubbed up against one of the vans! One students said he was almost moved to tears at the sight of this heard with the Tetons in the background. For everyone this was a highlight of the day. I rolled down my window and grabbed these from the driver seat of my vehicle. Most of us laughed slack jawed in amazement.
Snow tubing at Snow King in Jackson Hole after spending some time walking around town.
Would you believe the students all look this awake and enthusiastic at 10:00pm after a packed day of engaging activities.
NPS Academy facilitator and past NPS superintendent Gerard Baker wore his bear coat and coyote hat to the campfire at the Murie Center. He spoke of his family and the history of his native american people the Mandan-Hidatsa Indian. He was featured in the PBS special on National Parks - though he has since retired.
With a fire in the fireplace and wood stove, we all gathered around Burton Pretty on Top, Cultural Director of the Crow Tribe, huddled close on couches, chairs, and the floor as a family. Mr. Pretty on Top shared stories of serving your neighbors, treating others with respect, honoring your culture and ancestry and gave us the great honor of praying for each one of us individually.
The energy and emotion in the room was palpable. Members of the academy volunteered one by one to share their thoughts and feelings with the group. This group of strangers, just 5 days before, each experienced this week uniquely. One by one, as members volunteered to share their thoughts and feelings, I learned that for some this week represented an inspirational oasis from life's challenges. It brought altering or affirming emotions towards past decisions and future plans. Over and over I listened to stories of barriers being broken down as students stepped out of their comfort zone and into the camaraderie of their peers.
Reposted from the Sierra Club Blog
What's in your future? Whether you decide to spend the summer traveling, learning green job skills, or cultivating sustainable habits, the choices you make today could change the course of your life. This week, we've got tips to help you pave a path to a greener future.
If you'd love to spend your summer protecting wildlife, restoring habitat, or building trails, just look for the nearest wildlife refuge. This year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hire 2,300 youth for summer jobs in 556 national wildlife refuges. You can find even more opportunities through the Student Conservation Association.
--photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service
From Theresa Conn on our I Heart Snow Photo Contest. She is an SCA Alumna from 2011.
"My time as an SCA intern last summer at Cape Cod National Seashore has opened up many doors for me- most recently, landing me an internship this winter at New Hampshire State Parks and Recreation as their Parks Blogger. I had the awesome experience of dogsledding up the Mount Washington Auto Road, something that has only been done a by a few mushers. I tagged along for a training run, and had an amazing time. Nothing like some 90 mph gusts to wake you up in the morning!"
An SCA and Southwest Airlines Tour40 video was just submitted to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship International Film Festival...and we'd love your vote!
The Center for Corporate Citizenship’s annual Film Festival provides companies with an opportunity to demonstrate how they have utilized video as a communication tool. Last year over 25,000 employees and partners viewed the videos in the 2011 Film Festival and voted for their favorite. Public voting will take place on this website from February 14 - March 3, 2012 to narrow the field to ten finalists. The ten finalists will be reviewed by a panel of judges to choose the winner. The winner of the Film Festival will be announced during the 2012 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, March 25-27, in Phoenix. All ten finalists will be available for viewing and showcased before the 600 corporate citizenship professionals in attendance.
Watch the video and vote online!