(Teton Village, WY) June 22, 2017 — The Student Conservation Association (SCA), the national leader in youth service and stewardship, has awarded its Founder’s Medal to three Jackson Hole regional partners: Grand Teton National Park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, and Teton Science Schools. The presentation marked the 60th anniversary of SCA’s 1957 launch at Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks.
The SCA Founder’s Medal bears the name and likeness of Liz Putnam and recognizes exemplary efforts in advancing the engagement of youth and young adults in hands-on service to the land. Ms. Putnam introduced the idea of a “Proposed Student Conservation Corps” in her 1955 senior thesis at Vassar College, as under-funded parks struggled to keep up with surging visitor demands. Two years later, with the aid of fellow Vassar alumna Martha Hayne (Talbot), the first 53 SCA volunteers reported for duty.
Over the years, tens of thousands of other young people followed, as did scores of state and regional corps programs, and Ms. Putnam now is widely regarded as the “Mother of the Youth Conservation Movement.” Still an active SCA ambassador and source of inspiration for young stewards everywhere, Ms. Putnam participated in the medal ceremony, held in Teton Village, WY.
“Since the very beginning, SCA has been about partnerships, teamwork, and banding together to achieve something greater than yourself,” Ms. Putnam said. “Service to nature and empowering youth are among our most noble callings, and that’s why it’s so rewarding to return to the Tetons and honor these deserving medal recipients.”
In 2011, Grand Teton National Park, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, and Teton Science Schools joined with the Student Conservation Association to launch the NPS Academy, a career development program that introduces high school and college students from diverse backgrounds to the array of professional opportunities in the National Park Service and conservation field. Since then, more than 500 young adults have enrolled in NPS Academy, which includes a week-long orientation at Grand Teton National Park each spring, followed by summer internships at national parks across the country. Students are mentored by park officials and also serve as park ambassadors at school and in their home communities.
“When I joined NPS Academy, I wasn’t sure where it would lead to beyond a free trip to Tennessee [Great Smoky Mountains National Park],” stated Millie Jimenez, a native New Yorker who is now Grand Teton’s diversity outreach and volunteer coordinator. “It’s amazing that these four organizations would partner to create career opportunities for younger people like me.”
“Teton Science Schools is honored to partner with SCA in empowering the future leaders within the National Park Service and conservation more broadly,” added Teton Science Schools Executive Director Chris Agnew. “Liz Putnam leaves a legacy with every graduating class of the NPS Academy.” Grand Teton National Park Chief of Interpretation Vickie Mates and Leslie Mattson of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation also accepted awards.
Among the others commemorating SCA’s 60th anniversary are the SCA board of directors, its President’s Council and Alumni Council, past board members and staff, former volunteers from SCA’s first years at Grand Teton, and supporters from throughout the Jackson Hole area. The Teton Village event also included the debut of a limited edition book, “Lives and Lands: Celebrating 60 Years of the Student Conservation Association.”
Photo, L-R: SCA Board Chairwoman Margie Brown, Teton Science Schools Executive Director Chris Agnew, SCA Founding President Liz Putnam, Grand Teton National Park Chief of Interpretation and Partnerships Vickie Mates, Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson, SCA President and CEO Jaime Matyas.
About the Student Conservation Association
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s largest and most effective youth conservation service organization. SCA conserves lands and transforms lives 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 85,000 alumni are employed or studying in conservation-related fields. For more, visit www.thesca.org.