A New Twist for Park Internships


This past winter (2012-13) the Parks Conservancy and National Park Service embarked on an exciting new adventure with our friends at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and City College of San Francisco (CCSF) – a program called “Academic Internships.” This new internship model connects local college students with work experience opportunities in the park, allowing for a direct and significant pathway between the Park and our local youth.

In short, the endeavor has been nothing short of amazing. While the park reaps the benefits of introducing a new generation to their national parks and getting critical support for priority programs and projects, the interns receive academic credit and gain valuable and relevant hands-on work experience to enhance their classroom learning and better prepare them for future careers.

During this spring semester pilot program, 22 students from SFSU and CCSF were hired as Academic Interns in a wide spectrum of capacities: habitat restoration, aquatic ecology, vegetation ecology and endangered species, waterbird monitoring, education and interpretation, stewardship and volunteer management, new media and community outreach, GIS mapping, library research, business management, facilities management, environmental protection and sustainability programs.

Most of the internships were part-time, 2-3 days per week, allowing the students to continue to take classes. The experience has been tremendous for all involved, mentors and interns alike. In fact, a majority of the internships will be extended through the summer!

We’d like to extend an ENORMOUS THANKS to all of the Academic Interns and our partners at SFSU and CCSF! What an incredible spring semester we’ve had with all of you in the parks. Here’s looking forward to many more to come.

As we near the end of the spring semester, we asked both the student interns and their staff mentors to reflect on these past few months:

Maria Rosario, Facility Management and Volunteer Program Intern, SFSU Student
“My internship experience has been so great I would love to share it with you. Before beginning my internship with the GGNPC and NPS I had never once considered working in a park. Although I loved parks and being outside, I was set on pursuing a career in Event Management within the corporate or religious sector, now, after several weeks I have completely reconsidered the career path I would like to follow after graduating (May 2014).

As a Recreation, Parks, and Tourism major at SF State, I pursued this internship opportunity to gain experience in an area within my major where I lacked depth. However, I have quickly realized that this opportunity has presented itself as a stepping stone to a brighter and happier future. Thus far, I have gained a great deal of insight, knowledge, and hands-on experience.

Overall I am truly enjoying this internship; working with the staff and volunteers has been a magnificent experience. This internship has left me feeling very passionate and excited for my career. Through the experiences I have gained within this academic internship I am now pursuing a career with the National Park Service in Park Management.”

Stefanie Taunton, Muir Woods Education and Interpretation Intern, CCSF Student
“I have had such an amazing time in my internship and have been able to learn so many new things. It has been so much fun. One of my favorite highlights is seeing children's eyes and faces light up when I have a banana slug to show.”

Ashley Espinoza, New Media Intern, SFSU Student
“My overall experience being an Academic Intern at the parks has been amazing; there are so many wonderful people here!!! This program has not just helped me academically, it's helping me ready myself for what is to come after college. From this internship I now have a greater respect for how hard everyone is working to keep our parks alive and clean for all of us to enjoy. It's wonderful!”

Makoto Valdez, Camping At the Presidio Intern, CCSF Student
“My staff mentor described the job as the second-best in the world and I would have to whole-heartedly agree—it is such an amazing thing to be able to provide people with the opportunity experience nature...though I am not really sure what job would be better.

I truly cannot express how honored I feel to have this opportunity—I get to the opportunity to take kids camping and hiking. Many of these children would not have the opportunity to experience nature without this program. It is very rewarding because I feel like I am making a direct impact on their views of nature, conservation, and the values of the natural resources we are given.

I equate this program to giving people a wonderful gift, and though it is not tangible—the appreciation and enjoyment of nature is lifelong.”

Kelcie Taylor, Alcatraz Historical Interpretation Intern, SFSU Student
“Here I am in the middle of the San Francisco Bay on an island—an island that would be a new experience for me and a stepping stone for life. Sure, I had been to Alcatraz before. I had been on the Cell House tour with my family and walked around with headphones on my head and followed along like I was supposed to. But that isn’t all that Alcatraz has to offer. There are so many different layers to it. There are nature aspects, wildlife aspects, Civil War history, American Indian history and of course, the prison history.”

Vika Sirova, National Park Service
“Matt has been awesome and was able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time. Godsend?!”

Laura Castellini, National Park Service
“It’s going great! Steven is fun to work with.”

Robert Steers, National Park Service
“Teri is great. She is independent, smart, and trustworthy. I can give her something to do and she does it right. She has a great attitude and eagerness to learn. I feel really lucky to have this intern.”

Laura Elze, National Park Service
“My intern, Maria, is working out great. She is very attentive to detail, asks questions when necessary, and does a great job helping me administer the maintenance volunteer program. The best intern we have had.”

Michael Chasse, National Park Service
“It has been GREAT having Brendan’s assistance in gathering rare plant data and supporting volunteer stewardship programs. Not to mention his impromptu bagpipe concerts during breaks.”

Fatima Colindres, National Park Service
“Working with Dennis has been wonderful. It has really made a difference having him as a part of the Community Group Program team.”

Susie Bennett, National Park Service
“My interns have been absolutely wonderful. They are uniquely talented and it’s been fun connecting them with projects that really fit their particular skill sets and interests.”

George Su and Michael Faw, National Park Service
Ashley’s “quite the hard worker and has been helpful. And smart. We show her something once and she’s pretty much got it.”

Elana Garfinkle, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
“Kelcie is doing great. She has been great with visitors, has been receptive to all the information given to her, and is always on time and presents herself in a professional manner.”

To find out how you can get involved in this program or other volunteer programs, please visit our page or contact us at volunteer@parksconservancy.org.

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