Native Plant Nursery intern Ava Joseph poses with whitebark pine seedling. Photo: NPS
A new internship program is introducing participants from backgrounds historically underrepresented in the National Park Service to career opportunities at Glacier. This was no typical internship: ACE, the American Conservation Experience, has an innovative and immersive new training program to kindle passion and curiosity for NPS careers and build critical career skills. The training program, called the NPS Academy, is hosted at Grand Teton National Park. In March, the cohort of interns spends a week at the Academy building skills and making connections that will serve their future careers.
In 2022, five parks participated in the program: Glacier, Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone. Glacier National Park, with support from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, hired three NPS Academy interns. Academy interns may go on to work in any of the many jobs at a national park. This year’s group at Glacier worked in Interpretation, the Native Plant Nursery, and Trails, respectively. Participants are also connected with a network of Academy alumni who are further along in their careers to provide networking and mentorship.
David Linares, Glacier’s NPS Academy Trails intern, said of his experience working with trail crew, “We are the unseen backbone of the national parks, and though many may not appreciate it, it’s vital work nonetheless. Looking at some projects that will last gives me a sense of pride as I know that my work will be used for years to come.”
Interpretation intern Maddie Morris teaching park visitors about Glacier’s wildlife. Photo: NPS
For Maddie Morris, an Interpretation intern, the experience was not just about building skills, but also deepening her connection to this place, “This summer I have hiked many miles, seen incredible animals, and learned so much about this unique area of the United States,” Morris says.
For Morris, this opportunity at Glacier helped build skills through practice and observation, “I had the experience of an interpretation ranger including leading guided hikes, giving nature talks, and campground evening programs. I have also had the chance to be mentored by my talented peers, which helped me to create better quality programs than I might have on my own.”
Tracy Ammerman, Glacier National Park’s Chief of the Division of Interpretation and Education, spearheaded the project. While on a temporary assignment at Grand Teton National Park, Ammerman saw first-hand the valuable training participants were getting at the NPS Academy and knew she had to find a way to get Glacier involved.
“Lo and behold it popped into my mind that maybe working with the Conservancy would be the answer,” Ammerman said, “Perhaps they would be interested in helping the park with a program like this. We would provide the developmental opportunity, if the Conservancy could provide the funding.”
Native Plant Nursery intern Ava Joseph doing field work in Glacier. Photo: NPS
To Ammerman, fostering a diverse workforce in the National Park Service is a top priority, “There’s so much work out there that shows us that people are comfortable in places with other people that look like them. So if we are going to welcome a diverse workforce and welcome a diverse population to the park, we need to have more people working here that look like those diverse populations.”
According to Ammerman, the NPS Academy is the perfect partner for this goal of diversifying the workplace because they “actively seek out and recruit diverse youth who might have an interest in Park Service careers.”
Ultimately, it comes down to the mission of the National Park Service, to make our parks a welcoming place for all people.
“National parks belong to all Americans,” Ammerman notes, “So it would be really nice if some of those diverse Americans felt more comfortable coming to the national parks.”
With your support, the Conservancy will continue to fund this important program in 2023 and looks forward to welcoming a new group of interns to Glacier.
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