Opening young minds to the world outside


With the Junior Rangers in Rock Creek Park

Aurelia Casey’s extensive SCA portfolio includes a Hurricane Sandy recovery crew, an internship with Hudson River Park, and numerous ConSERVE NYC projects. This summer, she was a Junior Ranger intern at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC as part of SCA’s NPS Academy.

Four straight years of SCA – how did this become the first outside your native New York City?

I was accepted into NPS Academy last year but I didn’t know if I was ready for it. If I could adapt to somewhere new. It was a maturity kind of thing. But I’ve been growing with SCA, growing as a woman, and DC seemed the best way to get into urban education.

You’ve noted previously that your SCA experiences prompted you to pursue a teaching career…

SCA has provided the kind of mentorship I didn’t have growing up. I gained leadership skills and confidence last summer at Hudson River Park, and I really enjoy the look on kids’ faces when they learn something new or figure out something on their own.

Why is that rewarding for you?

The other day, for example, I took the Junior Rangers on a hike and this eight year old girl had so many questions! But to see her retain that information and share it with her parents when they picked her up – I feel even if I touch just one kid, I changed at least one life for the better.

NPS Academy aims to bring greater diversity to national park staffs.  Why do you want to be part of that?

When I was a child, my mother would take my brother and me to all types of places but I wouldn’t see anyone in top positions that resembled my family. I like that SCA and NPS are doing this because kids of all cultures need to have dreams and aspirations and realize they don’t need to go down some path their community has pre-set for them.

That sounds like the very course you’re on…

When I started with SCA, I didn’t like getting in the dirt at all. I hadn’t heard of the term “invasive species.” Now I’m teaching Junior Rangers about the solar system and, who knows? One of them could go on to become an astronaut. 

Does that make you a role model?

I want children to see me and see themselves. I want that little girl to say to herself “Wow, she looks like me. She has my hair, my skin color, and if she’s doing this, I can, too!”