College Students Plant Career Seeds in National Parks


GATLINBURG — Most of them had never before been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For some, it was their very first hike. The fog and the hemlock forest reminded< Jimena Diaz of her hometown of Seattle, Wash.  A student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Diaz hopes to find a job in conservation biology. Last Tuesday, she witnessed firsthand how biologists at the most visited national park in the country use their training. For Diaz and the rest of the group, the short hike to Grotto Falls helped demonstrate what the National Park Service has to offer in terms of a career.

This past week 24 college students from a wide range of backgrounds spent their spring break at the Smokies with a program called NPS Academy that’s aimed at creating a younger and more diverse workforce for the National Park Service.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) created the program four years ago. This year, 122 students from across the country are participating in the NPS Academy at four national parks: Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, National Parks of New York Harbor, and the Smokies.

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Student Conservation Association
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