MEDORA — When asked why university-aged interns at Theodore Roosevelt National Park packed their possessions and came to North Dakota for the summer, most said the decision was a “first step” towards a career in the outdoors.
Chief of Interpretation Eileen Andes said the park partners with a program called Student Conservation Association, which links youth to conservation-based internships and leadership opportunities.
This summer, the park hired eight interns, four who work as interpreters and four on a trail maintenance crew.
Andes said each of the positions pose different challenges, but in the end, help direct youth into a career path in the future.
“When youth are thinking about what they want to do, they don’t necessarily know,” Andes said. “This plants the seed.”
The park provides housing for interns, and SCA picks up the rest, including uniforms, a small travel allowance and an $85-a-week stipend.
While it doesn’t seem like much, Andes said the experience is a crucial stepping stone for youth interested in pursuing an outdoor career.
“This internship gives them a chance to get some solid experience to get a paid position in the future,” Andes said.
During Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s busiest season, interpretation interns are the face of the grounds.
They spend the summer greeting thousands of visitors, answering questions, giving tours and facilitating presentations to the public.
“They learn the basics of being an interpreter,” Andes said. “This internship gives a good, solid ground in what interpretation is and gives them a chance to see if it’s a career they want to pursue.”
She said the position is more difficult than most surmise.
“Interpretation is more than just giving people information,” Andes said. “It’s about fostering stewardship and helping visitors make a connection with the resource.”
Megan Muller, a senior at Green Mountain College in Vermont, said she had never been this far west before she flew to North Dakota in the spring.
And she said the internship is even better than she had imagined before coming to the state.