Just days before the August 25th centennial of the National Park Service (NPS), the Student Conservation Association convened a high-level NPS delegation to explore new strategies for engaging young conservation leaders for the next 100 years of national parks.
NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion Mike Reynolds, Associate Director for Interpretation & Education Julia Washburn and Youth Programs Manager George McDonald were among the NPS oﬃcials joining SCA leadership and more than 50 active SCA interns, recent SCA alumni and others at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, DC. The two and a half day session provoked fresh dialogue and stimulated new ideas to position national parks as both recreational and career options with young Americans.
The summit format was heavily interactive, featuring a combination of plenary sessions and breakout exercises focused on two simultaneous tracks. On one track, SCA led NPS staff and special guests through a systems-thinking creative approach known as Innovation Engineering. Using cycles of learning coupled with problem-solving advice from a room full of diverse thinkers, SCA staff challenged participants to generate new ideas for attracting young people from all backgrounds into careers with the National Park Service.
On the second track, recent alumni from SCA’s Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program in national parks and active members of SCA’s New York State-based Excelsior Conservation Corps offered recommendations on how to strengthen the impact of the SCA experience on young people. They also provided feedback on the career concepts developed in the Innovation Engineering breakouts.
“The SCA members definitely came away from this experience feeling empowered,” said Kate Hagner, SCA director of Evaluation Strategy. “Their input was thoughtful, insightful and really valuable in advancing the process.”
Intern Danielle Luchkowec was among those grateful to learn more about professional opportunities with the Park Service. “It was wonderful to see those in SCA strongly advocating for us millennials,” she stated. “The summit was very inspiring and provided me encouragement to keep pushing for future conservation employment.”
The forum was made possible in part by financial support from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.