Centennial Volunteer Ambassador Courtney Butler
This July, eight anxious, nervous, and excited high school students arrived here at Cape Cod National Seashore. They, along with their two crew leaders, were selected to be part of an SCA National Crew – and they were lucky enough to spend their time and energy here at the beautiful Seashore! This park is special not only because it preserves the shoreline here for the “enjoyment of the people” (as JFK said), but also because it has an immense amount of history to be shared. From the Native Americans to the Pilgrims, from Thoreau to today’s vacationers coming from all over the country, people have always loved it here on Cape Cod. And this SCA National Crew found out exactly why!
Not only did I have the chance to meet this incredible group in my work as an SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador, but I was fortunate enough to work directly with them in the field as well. The crew focused on the area known as the “Pamet Area Trails” in Truro, Massachusetts. I served in a liaison role, setting up numerous educational enrichment sessions for the group. However, the crew would get much more out of their time here than just historical and cultural lessons – and so would I.
The crew members arrived in Boston after traveling from all over the country – California, Texas, New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, D.C., and beyond. The evening they arrived I went to their accommodations at the beautiful Coast Guard Station in Eastham. I learned that many of them had never been to a National Park before, nor knew of any National Parks in their areas back home. These members came from all walks of life, from different areas of the nation, and with different ideas of what this trip would entail.
Among the crew’s first sessions was a walk on the beach with an SCA Shorebird Tech, Tamara. She showed them the importance of keeping our birds safe during their stay at Cape Cod and how to find and identify them. This opportunity gave the members a chance to see what SCA at the college level looks like. After that, they went to the Salt Pond Visitor Center and became Junior Rangers! Before heading to the trail to continue their work, they had the opportunity to meet our Superintendent George Price and Deputy Superintendent Kathy Tevyaw. George and Kathy talked with the members about all the different aspects of the seashore, jobs in the National Park Service, and how to apply this experience to their future careers. The next session was a canoe paddle in Salt Pond, giving the crew a chance to learn firsthand about the ecosystems of the seashore and their importance.
The crew also went to the Bio Lab and learned about all the different work going on there – getting to hold a Ringneck snake and seeing some specimens from the freezer (to help identify animals they’d seen live on the trail). Suddenly everyone wanted to be a scientist! After the Lab we headed to Provincetown for some cultural immersion. That night, Old Harbor Life Saving Station held a historical reenactment demonstrating the “Beach Apparatus Drill.” This is a drill that was practiced every Thursday night over 100 years ago by the Life Savers and is honored in tradition here to show the public how it was used to save ships that wrecked offshore.
After taking in three weeks of sun, sand, and saltwater the crew was finally ready to head home. In the end, every member took away something very different from the trip. To quote a few items from my Close Out session with them: “I realized I was stronger than I thought I was – physically and mentally.” “This experience was eye-opening and gave me satisfaction.” “I know that I DID something that counts.” “The work I’ve done here will be used by everyone but it is not permanent.”
To see the members grow and change in just three weeks was amazing. These SCA crew members came with nerves, hesitation, and curiosity. They left as strong, ambitious, accomplished young adults who were very impressed with themselves and each other. Whether or not they all become NPS Rangers, we’ll see – but one thing is for sure, these guys and gals are going to make a BIG difference in this world, so be ready!