Alumni Stories

By Roland Richardson

On Wednesday, July 27th, SCA joined the National Parks Conservation Association for a joint networking happy hour.

By Jess Landis
As a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Padre Island National Seashore, I’ve gotten to meet some pretty cool people. Recently I sat down with Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island. Given we’re both natives of New York, Cornell University grads and SCA alumni, we have much in common. Donna spoke about her professional beginnings, and how SCA changed her life – and the fate of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle – forever. 
 
By Joseph Thurston

Todd Nelson is the volunteer coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park. We asked him about his career, the National Park Service centennial, and the future of America’s Best Idea.

Why do you like working with volunteers?

What solidified it for me was working with college students on alternative [service] spring breaks. The students represent a variety of majors and I inform them that whatever they are studying, there is a position for them in the National Park Service, that we’re more than the different “-ologists.”

By Joseph Thurston

SCA alum Lauren Ray reveals how her SCA internship with the National Park Service helped her discover her public-lands-loving hip hop alter ego, the Rapping Ranger.

SCA alum Lauren Ray, aka the Rapping Ranger, has written and performed hip hop odes to each park that she's worked at, starting with Arches National Park where she served as an SCA Intern.

“When it comes to getting kids outdoors, no one has done more over the past sixty years than Liz Putnam,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, as he presented Liz with the Society’s Robert Marshall Award at a VIP-studded ceremony in Washington, DC.

In bestowing the award, named for one of The Wilderness Society’s founders, to SCA’s founder, the two organizations celebrated the notion of empowering young people to protect wild places.

SCA Founder Liz Putnam presented the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society

SCA alumna Sarah Calhoun (SCA 2002, ’03, ‘04)  – the founder of Red Ants Pants, a specialty line of women’s workwear – was recently featured in The Huffington Post and on Silicon Valley start-up expert Steve Blank’s popular podcast. In each, Sarah shares her story of beating the odds in the highly competitive apparel industry and the rewards of living in Big Sky Country.

Red Ant Pants founder and SCA Alum Sarah Calhoun

Look around a national park and you may see brown bears, blue herons, or Redwood trees.

But you’re less likely to see any people of color.  Statistically, 80% of park visitors are white as are park staffs, even as projections show whites will be in the minority within 30 years.

As the National Park Service counts down to its Centennial, I struggle with the lack of diversity in national parks, and why even our urban park systems are segregated. 

SCA Board member Ernest C. Wong (inset) and Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chicago

Parker Davis is a four-time alumnus of SCA’s Seattle community crew program. When an SCA staff member saw the announcement of Parker’s college graduation in June 2015, he sent a note Kit Lewis, Parker’s mother. Kit’s response was powerful and poignant, and as you’ll see she’s authorized SCA to share it.

SCA Alum Parker Davis seen in his Crew days at Mount Rainer in 2010 and at his college graduation this year.

“Something different” is what Jessica Aronson Cook was looking for when she first joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a Canyonlands National Park intern. Little did she know she would find her future career and life-long friends.

Growing up in Houston, Stacey Kinney says she only saw ducks on office park ponds. Now, here she was at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in Lambert, Mississippi, netting and banding them by the dozen. 

“Getting one of those little silver bands on is not easy,” Stacey declares. “The ducks  start flapping like mad and don’t even listen when you tell them to calm down!”

Mary Nghe and Stacey Kinney -- two CDIP Interns with the Student Conservation Association

Davon Goodwin had already made a range of contributions – and sacrifices – before he joined SCA. An Army veteran, he’d pulled extended tours of Iraq and Afghanistan; in the latter, an improvised explosive device fired shrapnel into his brain and shattered two vertebrae.  Davon says recovering from his wounds was nearly as daunting as recovering his focus.

“I’d lost my sense of purpose,” he recalls. “For a lot of soldiers, there’s no mission anymore. You get that sense of, ‘okay, what do I do now?’”

Davon Goodwin, SCA Alum at work with the Veterans Fire Corps
By Joseph Thurston

This past Monday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday by participating in the “California King Tides” citizen science project. This event was hosted by Acterra, a Peninsula-based environmental non-profit in the SF Bay Area. We had a great turnout (close to seventy people!), at the East Palo Alto Bay Trail, participating in the event. 

By Joseph Thurston

Leah Duran is a three-time SCA alum who just finished a three-year stint on SCA’s Alumni Council. Soon after serving with SCA she began working for the National Park Service, first at Lassen Volcanic National Park, then at John Muir National Historic Site, and now at San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.

SCA Alum Leah Duran is currently a NPS employee at San Fransicso Maritime National Historic Park

SCA Alumni Council Leah Duran (pictured below) writes about the REI-led stand-up paddle boarding class recently held at Richmond Marina in the Bay Area exclusively for SCA alums. second course will be held this Friday, 7/25 in Redwood City.

Yellowstone National Park contains more than 1,100 miles of trail and among the most impressive is the one blazed by Dr. Mary Meagher. A first-year SCA alumna (Olympic NP, ‘57), Mary is widely credited with paving the way for women scientists in the park service. “Agencies did not hire women at that time, at least with my training and interests,” she says. “That’s just how things were.”

The diary of the first-ever SCA crew tells of “15 young woodsmen” who built a new trail along the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, “swapped yarns” and vied in “glissading marathons” in their off-time. Then 16-year old Eliot Putnam started his journal exactly 57 years ago today. Eliot would go on to travel the world with the Peace Corps, CARE, Pathfinder International and the National Council for International Health (where he served as president) promoting family and reproductive health programs in developing countries.

By Joseph Thurston

Since a 2009 SCA internship at Shenandoah National Park, Don Macänlalay has gone on to do social media for The Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental nonprofit in America, and one of the most trusted. He began at their national headquarters in Arlington, VA , focused on Tumblr and Instagram, but soon moved on to managing all social media for their Washington state office in Seattle.

I had two job offers for the summer before my junior year of high school, and I went for the one that came with new boots. The job was with Student Conservation Association (SCA), a program that offers youth the opportunity for real jobs in the conservation field.

By Evan Escamilla

This year the Northwest Community program is celebrating 30 years of community programming and conservation service to the Puget Sound area. We’re reaching out to our SCA members throughout our history to reconnect and find out where they’re at today. This conversation is with Jesse Alton, ‘93-‘96 Seattle Community Program alum and crew leader ‘04. 

Jesse is pictured above; 2nd from right with the crew he co-led at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2004.

By Evan Escamilla

This year the Northwest Community program is celebrating 30 years of community programming and conservation service to the Puget Sound area. We’re reaching out to our SCA members throughout our history to reconnect and find out where they’re at today. Our first conversation is with Qiana Patterson, ‘93 Seattle Community Program alumna and now Chief Operations Officer at Edlio, a Los Angeles based educational software platform provider.  

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