Alumni Stories

By Emerson Gaziano

A path often taken by SCA Alumni is to pursue a career outdoors with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or other agency. That is amazing and we value all the hard work our alums do to preserve, protect, and educate others about our nation’s public lands. We were curious about the varied career paths taken by our alumni.

What do Tinker Air Force Base, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Delaware State Parks have in common? Each place encouraged and empowered Riley Hays in discovering her passion to inspire people to love parks and the great outdoors, and started her own love of Visitor Interpretation at parks! Riley Hays is a three-time SCA alum serving with us in different internships between 2012-2014.

SCA Alum Riley Hays hiking in Denali National Park
By Emerson Gaziano

Photo of original wood creation by Matt Gang, SCA Alumni

Woodworking by Matt Gang, SCA Alumnus

A guest blog from an SCA Alumni Council Member, Nancy Fernandez

Climate change is a polarizing turn of phrase.

A guest blog from an SCA Alum, Lauren Traylor

After completing my degree in the arid southwest of Colorado, I was looking for a change in scenery when I found my SCA intern position at the Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York. The Eastern Deciduous Forest seemed like the change I was looking for, and working at the historic rose garden sounded dreamy for a plant-loving gardener like me.

View of the Hudson River from the Vanderbilt mansion, part of the FDR historic site

Before I began my first position with Student Conservation Association as a five-month member of the Massachusetts AmeriCorps Team, I had recently graduated from college in western Pennsylvania as a music teacher and was working part-time as a lifeguard and lifeguard instructor.  I was working multiple jobs - none of which fully satisfied me.  I told my parents that I was moving to Hawley, Massachusetts to make boulders fly, build hiking trails, and live in a tent for the summer.  In those five months, I learned how to use traditional hand tools, learned basic carpentry skills, furthe

By Emerson Gaziano

SCA/AmeriCorps provided me something I consider priceless, and something that helped launch my career. SCA/AmeriCorps provided me what I call ‘dirt time’.

May 10, 2015 was supposed to be the day I walked across a stage in a cap and gown with my classmates to celebrate ourselves and our hard work over the last four years.

By Emerson Gaziano

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey

Danielle Alling served with SCA as a Crew Leader in Yellowstone National Park in 2017. She knows the importance of our public lands and how they enrich everyone’s lives. Danielle recently spent 33 days out on the Hayduke and wanted to share her experience to inspire fellow hikers and outdoor enthusiasts! 

By Dani Tinker

Popular culture and common myths perpetuate a fear of these misunderstood animals. They are more closely related to primates than rats and mice, they aren’t all rabid, and they don’t like to mess with humans. Bats want to do their own thing and be left alone. There’s no real reason to be scared of them.

Bats, on the other hand, have many reasons to be afraid. The challenges they face are enough to terrify any creature.

SCA intern Ashley Xu holding a pallid bat at Glen Canyon Recreation Area.

Samuel Merring, a seasonal interpretative ranger at the Stanislaus National Forest in northern California, develops and leads nature programs and guided walks around the forest’s picturesque Lake Alpine reservoir. What makes this all the more impressive is that Merring, who just completed his second summer on the job, is still in college, a senior at Grand Valley State University in Michigan majoring in natural resource management.

SCA Alum Samuel Merring at Stanislaus National Forest.
By Dani Tinker

It’s no secret that pollinators are in trouble. Many bee and butterfly species across the country are struggling to survive. And in some cases, there’s not even enough data to figure out next steps to help them. That’s where SCA pollinator interns come in!

Cattle on Kroll Waterfowl Production Area in North Dakota by Krista Lundgren, USFWS.

We recently asked our alumni to tell us their SCA stories, and did they ever! We were so moved by what they had to say that we want to start sharing them with you. Each month we will add a new one as well as link to those that have been highlighted on our social media feeds. Check back often to learn more about what your fellow alums had to say about there SCA experience and time since.

1969 Olympic National Park Crew

As a history major at Loyola University New Orleans, Peter Winfrey didn’t expect his career would lead him to the National Park Service (NPS). He definitely didn’t think it would take him to the largest and one of the wildest states in the country: Alaska.

Peter Winfrey Along the Dalton Highway in Northern Alaska

Located on the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades National Park – a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty – is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live side by side.

Everglades National Park by Matthew Paulson

At the moment, the land owned by Elder Pyatt in Beattie, Oregon is covered by juniper trees and rocks. But it won’t be for long. Pyatt, a Student Conversation Association alum and Iraq War veteran, has big dreams for his 40 acres: to turn them into a flourishing lavender farm.

Bee Flying Near Lavender

What does it take to be a park ranger? To find out, we caught up with SCA alumni who have gone on to hold government careers as park rangers. In Part I, we explored the college majors and internships that can help you land your dream job. In Part II, we’ll explore the range of careers available, networking, and perfecting just the right résumé. Fasten your seatbelts!

Ranger Alex Poole at Yellowstone National Park

At the age of 13, Nancy Rogers already knew she wanted to be a park ranger. And for upwards of four decades she’s followed that dream, first as an intern in the Student Conservation Association (SCA), then seasonally in the National Park Service, and finally as a permanent ranger in the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACE).

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Hat by Cynthia Mitchell

We often picture park rangers in forested national parks, rescuing hikers or handing out trail maps. And while those are important roles, there are so many others that we rarely hear about. We had a chance to sit down with Jason Cangelosi, the Volunteer Program Manager for the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C., to learn more about the diverse world of U.S. park rangers.


Q: Thanks for chatting with us today, Jason. Can you tell us more about what your specific park ranger position entails?

National Park Service Rangers at the National Mall in DC
By Dani Tinker

The National Park Service’s aviation branch helps find stranded hikers, manage fires, and conduct wildlife and vegetation surveys. To learn more, we met with Aviation Branch Chief (and SCA ALUM!) Meg Gallagher.

National Park Service Helicopter

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