Reel Works Teen Filmmaking and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), in partnership with American Express, announce the launch of a new student-directed film, NATIONAL PARK DIARIES, narrated by actor Alessandro Nivola. Shot in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, the film follows two teenage SCA volunteers and their conservation crews over a transformative three weeks working in and experiencing the national parks.  
The film will premiere at the Student Conversation Association’s 60th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, August 12, at Olympic National Park, just north of Seattle, Washington, and will be shared with national parks and festivals around the country to screen throughout the rest of this year.
Narrated by actor and producer Alessandro Nivola (THE WIZARD OF LIES, AMERICAN HUSTLE, FACE/OFF), the film chronicles the highs and lows of two teenagers’ experiences. In the hour-long documentary feature, the audience experiences the trips through the teens’ eyes as they adjust to their new surroundings, develop lasting relationships with their peers, and emotionally and physically push themselves to their limits, all while contributing to the national parks. 
Taylor Newkirk, an 18-year-old from Suitland, Maryland, and Nichlos Gutowski, a 15-year-old from Nome, Alaska, were selected from hundreds of SCA volunteers to participate in the making of the film.  The students, as well as their crew mates and project leaders—all of whom are featured in the film—are diverse in personality and backgrounds and provide varying perspectives on the volunteering experience. 
“Exploring and protecting the wildlands of my home state with some awesome crew mates was an epic, life-changing experience,” Nichlos states. “We hope that by sharing our story, we’ll inspire others our age to serve, to grow and to celebrate the great outdoors.”
The documentary was captured and edited by a selection of youth directors from Brooklyn’s Reel Works organization, which provides free filmmaking education and mentoring to young urban filmmakers in New York.
“From the shooting to the editing, Reel Works’ graduates and young trainees were part of the film’s entire creative process, and clearly connected with our courageous and kind SCA volunteer subjects,” says Stephanie Walter Williams, artistic director, Reel Works Teen Filmmaking. “We were invested every step of the way in the development of this story. We think the audience will fall in love with the characters in this film, and be impressed by the remarkable skill our young filmmakers have shown in capturing and creating this unique documentary.”
The film was created to inspire a younger and more diverse audience to explore volunteer roles and career opportunities in the conservation field and at national parks. The documentary illustrates how SCA empowers young people from all backgrounds through hands-on service to nature. “These challenging experiences in the wild are demonstrably transformative,” says SCA CEO Jaime Matyas. “Participants gain self-confidence, persistence and other skills that fuel optimal advancement and a lifetime of growth.”
The film was made possible through an American Express grant of $100,000 to Reel Works. The company is a premier partner of Find Your Park / Encuentra Tu Parque, a bilingual movement created by the National Park Foundation to inspire people to connect with, celebrate and support America’s national parks and community-based programs, including through volunteering.
The grant complements American Express’ $5 million, multi-year commitment in support of mobilizing one million volunteers in national parks and public lands annually. American Express is also a partner of SCA, supporting the organization’s Find Your Park volunteering events nationally.
“American Express has cultivated community service and civic engagement programs throughout its 167-year history,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president, American Express Foundation. “National parks are critical to our communities, and we hope this film will inspire a new generation of diverse park conservation leaders and stewards to conserve and protect our prized public lands.”
To find a screening at a national park or a festival, please visit or For more information about the film or for permission to screen it, please contact Kevin Hamilton, SCA Vice President for Communications, at 1.888.722.9675 / [email protected].
About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at, and connect with us on,,,, and
About Reel Works Teen Filmmaking
Reel Works Teen Filmmaking is one of the leading digital media educators in the United States. Reel Works provides free filmmaking programs for NYC Youth.  Using a unique, one-on-one mentoring model, we challenge our students to tell their stories and have their voices heard.  In turn, they build vital skills of literacy, leadership and self-confidence to create productive futures.  It’s a powerful combination that changes young lives while creating startling and original films that have been seen by over 9 million viewers since our founding in 2001. Learn more at
About the Student Conservation Association
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s largest and most effective youth conservation service organization. SCA transforms lives and lands by empowering young people of all backgrounds to plan, act, and lead, while they protect and restore our natural and cultural resources. Founded in 1957, SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders, and 70% of its 80,000 alumni are employed or studying in conservation-related fields. SCA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and maintains regional offices across the country. For more, visit
Student Conservation Association