Written by Lauren Freedman Whittlesey, SCA '10 alum, Alternative Spring Break in the Grand Canyon. Lauren turned her internship into a green job with SCA working in various capacities for the Marketing and Advancement teams. She is now the Corporate Events Coordinator.
As most young job-seekers have learned, simply having an education is not enough to get a job, let alone a great, green job these days. Whether you’re looking for a job with a corporation, a non-profit, or the government, chances are you’ll need to get some real world experience as an intern before you can land your dream job.
Interns not only learn how their academic curriculum can be applied in a modern workplace, but they also gain the critical workplace skills that employers are looking for. These include working as part of a team, meeting deadlines, managing multiple projects, creative thinking, and problem solving. Internships also help students learn about job opportunities available to recent graduates and provide real workplace references.
Lauren Freedman Whittlesey during her SCA Alternative Spring Break program.
Student Conservation Association alum Todd Nelson is now the Volunteer Resource Program Coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park. After his three-month SCA internship at Saguaro National Park, Todd knew that he had found his career path. “My SCA internship got me into the Park Service. Once I had my foot in the door, I was able to find my niche there,” Todd says.
Todd advises interns to diversify their experience to make themselves more marketable. “While you’re an intern, make sure you take any training that is offered. Even if it’s outside of the field you are working in, you can get a bigger picture of your agency and learn from new opportunities. Learning new skills can open the door for jobs you didn’t even know existed.”
Paul Loesch was one of the first 10 interns to take part in the SCA and ARAMARK Environmental Sustainability Internship program. Working with ARAMARK at Baylor University in Texas, Paul organized Baylor’s Energy Awareness Month, which included an energy conservation competition. He also developed energy awareness materials that addressed energy efficiency standards and procedures. Paul, an SCA alumnus, is a LEED accredited professional and also worked on certifying high performance green buildings on campus. “This internship taught me a huge amount about the practical application of sustainability initiatives in facilities management. I had a chance to learn a lot about automation systems, commercial HVAC, and general facilities management processes,” Paul says.
Paul Loesch monitors energy consumption at Balyor University as an SCA-Aramark environmental sustainability intern.
Paul points out that he had an opportunity to affect change in a big way, while also gaining skills that he was able to leverage into a full-time job in environmental compliance with ARAMARK. “Many graduates have a strong desire to be involved in something meaningful and get good experience, and the internship program does a fine job of providing these opportunities. The interns get quality training, and ARAMARK and its clients get a fresh set of eyes, hungry for environmentally positive results. I had superb support from ARAMARK’s corporate sustainability folks, and Baylor’s forward thinking approach created an environment where I really felt like my work was inspiring positive change.”
An internship can provide you with a foot in the door and the experience you need to start your career in conservation. It’ll prove to your potential employer that you are truly dedicated to the field. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you leverage your internship into a great job:
Are you ready to find the right internship to launch your career in conservation? SCA is posting new internships daily at http://www.thesca.org/serve/internships.
Written by Nelson Bruni, SCA alum and staff member. Nelson has been working in the SCA Equipment Warehouse since 2004, where he is responsible for maintaining, purchasing, repairing, and shipping gear for almost all SCA field programs. Nelson also assists in the training of SCA Crew Leaders, not only in the world of gear, but also as a Conservation Work Skills Instructor. In addition to his full time work at SCA, Nelson is a Veteran Crew Leader (9 crews!), an alumni of both the Big Cypress Restoration Corps and the NH Parks AmeriCorps, and as a Recruiting Intern with SCA.
Now, when you find yourself on a plane to Salt Lake City on the third Thursday of January, it’s almost guaranteed that you will not only find yourself seated next to those seeking snowy lands, you are also going to find yourself next to someone who is getting ready to head up to Park City for that movie scene lover’s dream- the Sundance Film Festival. On that same plane, tucked away behind the gentleman with the BYU hat, you will find another ‘scene-ster’, the person dressed in some of the finest brands of outdoor gear, on their way to the Salt Palace and the twice a year gathering of lots of gear and lots of gear-heads, the Outdoor Retailer Show.
For four days, while Park City is filled to the brim with Hollywood Stars and Directors and the Paparazzi, just about every outdoor company in the US and Canada is doing its best to showcase their newest products, building up hype by bringing in the rising stars and the honored legends of the climbing and skiing world, giving away all sorts of great SWAG (Stuff We All Get); pretty much doing just about anything they can do to get you over to their booth.
And now you ask, ‘What does this have to do with SCA’? For the past eight years, I’ve been lucky enough to be SCA’s Equipment Manager, meaning that I supply a majority of the camping, cooking, and first aid supplies for the entire organization, which in turn means that I purchase large portions of gear from many of the same companies that attend the OR Show. So, for the past five years, I’ve made the pilgrimage out to SLC, meeting with the representatives of the companies that supply most of our programs gear, while at the same time keeping an eye out for other companies that can provide new and innovative products that will improve our programs. And, of course, for a self-confessed gear head, I have a lot of fun getting to meet with fellow gear-heads and looking at and trying out all of this cool stuff!
Nelson working at SCA's equipment cache getting ready for thousands of SCA members' summer in the field.
From the beginning, the show is always a bit of a shock- you find yourself in a sea of people, trying to get your bearings, using the larger companies’ showcase booths as reference points of a sort, and trying to keep track of how long it takes you to get from the big Mammut blow-up mammoth mascot to Royal Robbins’ espresso bar, just so you can make sure you won’t be late to your meeting at Sierra Designs. So, in general, a lot of the time is just spent wandering about, getting used to the flow, and finding your way to where you need to go.
But, despite the constant wandering and excitement of playing with all this gear, the most important aspect of my visits is just to meet with the companies we work with and to let them know just how much their products help make sure our people in the field have a dry, comfortable, and safe SCA experience. I’ve been meeting with many of these folk for all five years and they’ve become more than just business associates and more like partners, wanting to know how our programs are doing, how they can assist, and always wanting to make sure we have what we need. It’s quite reassuring to see these companies so invested in our programs and enjoying the fact that it’s their tents, sleeping bags, stoves, backpacks, and clothing that is ensuring a certain amount of success for our members in the field.
SCA's stash of Sierra Design sleeping bags ready for use.
In the end, after a few days of being surrounded by all this gear and being in constant gear related conversations, I easily find myself in gear-overload. As I leave the show and head to the airport, my bags are a little heavier with swag, stickers, and catalogs, and my mind is filled with all sorts of ideas for how to get even more good gear in the field for our SCA members, but now it’s time to head back to New Hampshire and the Equipment Warehouse and to turn those thoughts into action.
So, do you want to know the scoop in next year’s gear? Check out my top 3 buzzworthy Gear or Displays.
Written by Monique Dailey who has been an SCA member since she was 10 years old. She's been a member of the local high school Community and Conservation Leadership Corps Crew at parks in DC, a national high school crew member at Salmon-Challis National Forest in east-central Idaho, and an SCA intern and high school crew leader in the local DC area.
My experience with the outdoors, and with the Student Conservation Association, started at age 10 because of a dog - a dog and a woman who enjoyed going to the park every day. A park that none of us neighborhood kids even knew existed because where I grew up going to a park was never considered an option. Even walking your dog was an anomaly given how prevalent drug use and gang violence was in my neighborhood in Washington, D.C. So when we saw this woman walking every day smiling and waving, we were curious as to where she was going. One day a group of us kids asked her and she invited us to walk with her.
Monique Dailey and the First Lady plant trees at a local DC Earth Day event.
The decision to go with her to the park undoubtedly changed the course of my life. I instantly fell in love with the beauty of the park. It was so unlike anything I experienced in the concrete jungle - the colors (how can anything be so green?), the sounds (a bird tweeting, the wind rustling through the leaves, and, sporadically, the silence), and the feeling of breathing the freshest air I've ever breathed. All of this was found a mere two miles away from my neighborhood.
After that day I knew I wanted to preserve areas like this for the rest of my life. With assistance from SCA, that woman started a community group to maintain the new-found passion that we kids discovered about becoming more connected with the environment. I have remained involved with SCA ever since. I've done community crews, national high school crews, internships, and even led crews and managed programs.
Monique engages local DC kids in an SCA community crew program at a local community park.
I'm sharing this story because my connection with the natural environment is an unfortunate anomaly where I grew up. There was never a real push to visit our Parks nor was there real access. Combined with the harsh realities of growing up in an impoverished neighborhood, there was just no real priority to foster environmental stewardship in youth.
These are the same obstacles the National Park Service and environmental organizations face today in getting urban youth actively involved in conservation, and the obstacles discussed at America's Summit on National Parks on January 24-26 in Washington, D.C. (http://www.2016parksummit.org/)
The purpose of the Summit was to discuss the future of America's national parks, including connecting youth and urban communities to parks and the environment since this is a major focus of the National Park Service and environmental organizations such as SCA in the coming years. I was invited to attend America's Summit on National Parks to represent my generation as one of the future leaders in environmental conservation. No pressure, right?
While there, I was able to meet leaders, philanthropists, politicians, and educators from across the country in the field of conservation. We talked candidly about my nearly 16 years of experience with SCA and how the experience shaped me into the person I am today. We also discussed ways to get more young people actively involved in environmental conservation.
Monique presented Liz Putnam with The Corps' Networks Legacy Acheivement Award on Feb. 12, 2012.
My advice to the National Parks Service and to other environmental organizations wanting to involve young people from all backgrounds is this: You need to get young people out there and you need to go into their communities to do it. What I've learned is that the barriers aren't insurmountable. However, it is important to actively pursue youth to bridge those missing connections. Reaching out directly to young people in their communities allows you to start to plant the seeds of environmental stewardship. It's hard for any young person to connect with an environment they don't understand. But, I believe active participation is key. Go to where the kids are and bring that enthusiasm to them!
When I hear the phrase "Taking action for a new century", I think of my generation - 18 - 29 year olds referred to as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y. We are the most educated in history as well as the most confident, upbeat and progressive. We are more ethnically and racially diverse than any previous generation in American history. Thus, equally important is keeping youth involved even after they participate in service projects in high school and internships in college. The ultimate goal is to foster that connection through adulthood.
There are scores of people in my generation who are ready and willing to play a role in environmental conservation. There are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers like myself who are eager to start a career in service. There are scores of others who would be more than interested to teach youth about the environment and participate in service projects and events in their communities. It's a matter of staying engaged and going to where the young people are whether through social media or physically working in their communities. Taking action is critical.
As we make efforts to conserve and interact with the environment in a sustainable manner, it's important to ensure that we involve everyone and not waste the opportunity to connect and learn from the young people who will soon be the shepherds of our natural resources. We have the energy and enthusiasm and we're looking for a way to focus it to make a difference in our planet...we're just hoping someone will show us the way.
Student Conservation Association and American Eagle Outfitters will engage 120 students from colleges across the country in meaningful hands-on conservation service at two of our most environmentally challenged national parks: Everglades National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. To learn more about participating in the 2012 Alternative Spring Break from SCA and American Eagle Outfitters, visit SCA’s Alternative Spring Break webpage and read Lauren's account below.
Written by Lauren Freedman Whittlesey, SCA '10.
Two years after my Alternative Spring Break trip with SCA and American Eagle Outfitters, I still can't shut up about it. I was at the end of my first year of graduate school in Manhattan. I got most of my exercise running down the block for the bus or hastily jogging up nine flights of stairs when the elevator at school was broken. I was afraid I might forget what stars looked like. When I was offered a spot on SCA's Alternative Spring Break crew at the Grand Canyon, I immediately accepted and then remembered I didn't even have a sleeping bag.
Luckily, I was able to borrow a sleeping bag and rounded up the warmest gear I could find. I spent the coldest nights of my life huddled around a campfire with 30 new friends and sleeping in my heaviest coat, hat, and gloves. With snow on the tent and frozen noses, coffee has never tasted so good.
The cold was immediately forgotten when we began work in the mornings. We spent our first days salvaging native plants in areas of the park that were slated for construction projects. These salvaged plants would spend the next year in the park's nursery, readying for another crew to replant them the following spring. Our fledgling crew salvaged, potted, and transported over 1300 native plants in just two days! It was so satisfying to see the fruits of our labor lined up in neat rows filling the nursery and knowing we were making a difference at one of the world's greatest natural wonders.
After a few days of salvaging, we completed the cycle by planting native plants that had been salvaged by the previous year's ASB crew. Those plants will still be decorating the landscape at the Grand Canyon visitor's center when my own children are old enough to work on an ASB crew.
When we weren't busy getting our hands dirty, my crew and I spent time learning about the history of the canyon, visiting the National Park Service's private museum of Grand Canyon artifacts (with a tour from the curator, an SCA alumna), hiking, and enjoying the breathtaking views. We also took in a few ranger talks and went for a moonlit hike along the South Rim one evening.
Sounds like a lot in just five days? It was! I'm still amazed that we could cram so much work and so much fun into just one week. When I got home, I was completely exhausted, and thrilled to sleep in a warm, soft bed again. But at the same time, I couldn't stop telling my friends and family how about satisfying and exhilarating my spring break was.
I know I'll still be bragging about my awesome crew for at least another two years. As this year's ASB crews head to the Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in just a couple months, I'm a little envious but mostly excited. They have big boots to fill, and I can't wait to hear what they come back bragging about.
Looking for a different type of spring break trip this year? Learn more about participating in the 2012 Alternative Spring Break from SCA and American Eagle Outfitters at SCA’s Alternative Spring Break page, deadline to apply is Feb. 10th!