Estes Park Trail Gazette – In the Park: Eagle Rock students complete RMNP internships

Three students had an exciting opportunity to internship with Rocky Mountain National Park this past trimester as part of their course work. Saul Flores, Ana (Gigi) Rivera and Katie Wiseman proved to be motivated, independent, responsible, and hard working students who worked in the Park for several days a week. Not only did this internship turn into a paycheck for students over their trimester break, it opened up all kinds of career opportunities for them in the park service.

This all day block class occurred during the second five-weeks of this past trimester. These three students who were selected for the class also participated in an Explore Week trip that included visiting national parks both in and out of the state.

“This experience has been a complete success this summer,” said Jon Anderson, Human Performance Instructor. “Everyone involved has been extremely happy about how it has turned out, from the students, to their supervisors, to folks they work with in their respective divisions. I have heard time and time again that our students have been great to work with, are dependable, hard working, and liked by the other Park staff.”

Flores, who interned as a visitor use assistant in the fee program, said, “I liked working and interacting with the visitors. I really liked learning where they were from and answering questions.” He was responsible for knowing the trail system in Bear Lake and was expected to answer a variety of questions from the public regarding this trail. He also worked out of the Bear Lake visitor booth and sold items such as trail maps and nature books. His duties also included learning how to work the national park’s radios so that he could communicate with people at the shuttle bus station when the Bear Lake parking lot was full. He was also in charge of making sure traffic kept moving through the parking lot and was responsible for letting his coworkers know, by radio, when parking spaces became available so that this information could made known to the public.

Rivera, who interned as a student restoration assistant in the resource stewardship division, explained she “loved being outdoors and has learned the importance of our national parks.” She was responsible for dividing plants, fertilizing, watering, weeding, mulching, inventorying, potting, data entry, and seed cleaning in Rocky Mountain National Park’s greenhouse and nursery. She also worked on the revegetation crew in Rocky Mountain National Park and was responsible for outplanting (transferring plants to wild areas in the Park) the plants grown or stored in the greenhouse. Additionally, she worked on implementing the Invasive Exotic Plant Management Plan and did this by physically removing invasive weeds.

Wiseman, who interned as an interpretive education assistant in the Heart of the Rockies, developed curriculum and lead natural history hikes for children in grades K-5 on the ecology and geology of Rocky Mountain National Park. Part of her course work included creation of a math portfolio focusing on the exponential growth of the elk population, written reflection on how working in the Park is addressing “nature deficit disorder” in children, and interviewed rangers, both in Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks, about the values held by Park rangers and the personal traits that make up Park rangers.

“A couple of the ultimate goals of this partnership has been for our students to be offered jobs following the internship (this happened for all three of them) and for this program to be so successful this year that it happens again next year,” said Anderson. “Flores’s supervisor said something to the effect that he was a little hesitant when he heard about this and after working with Flores he hopes that the program continues for years to come. Again, folks have been really impressed.”

Jeff Liddle, Director of Curriculum, explained, “Over the years we’ve done things in Rocky Mountain National Park with our curriculum. We envision a number of expanded opportunities with the Park. This summer we’ve done a variety of things (courses including For the Birds and River Watch) and the Internship Program with Flores, Rivera and Wiseman. This year has gone very well and we anticipate expanded, and more strategic symbiotic programs for years to come. We are very grateful to the Park for their support of Eagle Rock School and the learning of our students.”