The NPS Academy graduation last night marked the final day of the 2014 program. After a spring orientation in Grand Teton and a summer of work for the National Park Service, the interns had time to share their impressive experiences from the field and reflect on how their time with the NPS Academy will help shape their future.
Megan Kholi, GTNP Education, Diversity Outreach and Volunteers Program Manager, began the graduation ceremony last night by reminding participants that it is because of the chances each of them took this summer that they will experience the greatest rewards. Presentations throughout the rest of the evening echoed that sentiment. David Vela, GTNP Superintendent, offered a pep-talk of his own to the interns, who he labeled as “future stewards of the conservation movement and conservation ethics.” David recounted the first time he heard about NPSA and said it was clear that this program was instrumental in transforming the new workforce of the National Park Service. “We cannot put a price tag on the return on investment that the National Park Service will experience because of you.” David urged interns to continue to walk the line, get good grades in school, intern in their local National Parks, and maintain contact with their supervisors at Grand Teton.
There were a number of inspiring presentations by the interns, documenting the experiences they had this summer, discussing what they had gained and how they had grown, and reflecting on how their experience in Grand Teton will impact their future career paths.
“I fell in love with the National Park Service this summer.” – Courtney Beach. Courtney also said that she gained extraordinary confidence speaking in front of people through her internship as an Interpretive Ranger.
Ethan White Calfe is from a very small town in North Dakota and is a member of the 3 Affiliated Tribes and the Sahnish Cultural Society. He split his time between working with an archeologist and a museum curator. His favorite project was distinguishing artifacts between the Vernon Collection and the Garner and Cummings Collection. Ethan’s experiences working have led him to accept a seasonal position as an Interpretive Ranger for the Knife River Indian Village Historic Site and he is hoping to work with local tribal schools to set up conservation programs as part of their curriculum. Reflecting on this summer, he also commented that the many welcoming friends he made, and his fears from being away from his family, were put to rest because of the family he found here. Ethan went on many adventures with his new friends, hiking over 60 miles during the summer, “which for me is AWESOME” he exclaimed.
Gabriella Odusanya was a “jack of all trades” this summer, working as a volunteer leader, conducting an inventory of roadside interpretation signs for FMSS, and working as an Interpretive Ranger at the LSR preserve. She said that the best part of her experience was having “an opportunity to test her capabilities” both in her work and during free-time adventuring in Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton. Gabriella’s mentor, Amy, was the other part of this experience she was the most grateful for. Amy was instrumental in many ways but Gabriella pointed out the following: “Amy helped me navigate through the NPS job search site and worked with me to build a federal resume. She also made me feel comfortable enough to discuss non-professional aspects of my life too, which I think is a very important part of being a mentor.” Gabriella concluded her presentation by expressing that the program gave her concrete career direction: “I feel like I have a real sense of direction in my conservation career now.”
We want to extend huge congratulations to all NPS Academy participants! We thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the variety of experiences you all had this summer. Thanks for a job well-done, we are excited to see what amazing work you continue to do in the future!
NPS Academy is an annual, Foundation-funded program in Grand Teton National Park. For more info, visit us at www.gtnpf.org/initiatives/youth-engagement-initiative.