RMNP’s VISTAS – Rocky Mountain Building the Next Generation of NPS Employees Through Summer Internships

Over the past several years Rocky Mountain National Park has been developing collaborative partnerships and programs to provide opportunities for youth to personally connect to the NPS, create viable career paths for youth from underrepresented groups and address the lack of diversity in the park. Several new internship programs have been started to focus bridging the critical years between high school and college when students are making decisions that will influence their career and educational choices. Interns receive hands-on experience, connections to the existing workforce, and active mentoring as they begin their working relationship. Rocky receives enthusiastic and hard-working young employees that bring their energy and passion to become the next generation of NPS employees.

The Eagle Rock Internship Program is a partnership with Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center, an initiative of the American Honda Education Corporation, a 501(c)3, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Company. Eagle Rock School (ERS) is a year-round, residential, full-scholarship high school for students ages 15-20, located in Estes Park, Colorado. ERS works with students who have not been successful in traditional academic environments. The student body is purposefully diverse with students from around the country; many from urban areas.

Now entering its fourth year, the Eagle Rock Internship Program continues to bring new interns to the park and many of those former interns are now returning as seasonal employees during their summer break from college. In 2010, six interns volunteered and worked in the park. They worked on a variety of jobs including; recycling, visitor services at Bear Lake, trails and vegetation restoration. This summer four of those interns will return as seasonal employees.

Groundwork Denver Internship Program is a National Park Service Youth Internship Program partnership with Groundwork Denver. Groundwork Denver, a trust of Groundwork USA, is a community and environmentally focused nonprofit that works in Denver’s low income communities. They are focused on “Community Action Environmental Results.” The mission of Groundwork Denver is to bring about the sustained improvement of the physical environment and promote health and well-being through community based partnerships and action.

The Groundwork Denver Internship program is now in its second year and this summer they will be spending a month, working and camping in the park. The NPS provides funding, projects, supervision and various training and interpretative programs. Groundwork Denver recruits, hires, trains, supervises, and mentors ten lower income urban youth aged 18-24 to work in the park. Many of the interns have spent most of their lives in the inner city and they are out of their comfort zone. To address this challenge and help them feel comfortable in the outdoors, the interns also receive training on camping, outdoor cooking, teamwork and how to be safe. Once the interns were acclimated, they spent time with NPS staff learning about the park, the NPS, and potential career paths.

Rocky will continue to focus on creating opportunities for youth to personally connect to nature and parks. One intern said it best, “Working and living at RMNP was an experience that will last a lifetime. I am very grateful.”

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