NPS Academy, Alternative Spring Break Bringing Youth To National Parks

Spring break is commencing at colleges around the country, and for more than 200 students that means a trip not to the beach, but to a national park to participate either in the National Park Service Academy or an "Alternative Spring Break" program in parks.

Through these programs, students work to improve park habitats and prepare for careers in an increasingly “green” economy by participating in all-expense-paid programs provided by the Student Conservation Association.

This week the NPS Academy gets under way at Grand Teton National Park thanks to funding and collaboration through the SCA, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the Grand Teton Association, and the Teton Science Schools.

After successful completion of the program, NPS Academy students will be placed into summer internships at a number of parks throughout America: national parks that range from Acadia in Maine to Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, from Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton in northwestern Wyoming.

“We’re excited to again sponsor and host this beneficial, outreach program,” said Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “Through this and other programs, we’re taking important steps to build a more relevant and inclusive federal workforce.

"In 2011, with support from the NPS Intermountain Region Office, Grand Teton took the lead in launching the first-ever NPS Academy as a pilot program for students from diverse backgrounds across America. This program was generated and designed in cooperation with the Student Conservation Association and Teton Science Schools. With ongoing assistance from SCA, it has since expanded to both the Alaska and Southeast regions, and we’re especially proud to be creating a candidate base for potential NPS employees.”

Alternative Spring Break, which also is supported by American Eagle Outfitters, provides 120 students with hands-on, week-long internships that involve four workdays and a single day field trip with environmental education provided by national park rangers and others. Participants will train and camp on site, and all their travel and meals are underwritten by American Eagle Outfitters. Thirty students will participate each week at the following parks:

* Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida), March 3-9 and March 17-23

* Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (California), March 10-16 and March 24-30.

Alternative Spring Break is part of an expanded partnership between American Eagle Outfitters and SCA, which now, for the first time, involves in-store promotion of SCA activities in more than 800 American Eagle Outfitters stores as well as an online contest enabling the public to determine which national park will benefit from the next project stemming from this six-year collaboration.

NPS Academy, in partnership with the National Park Service, provides youth from diverse backgrounds with promising career paths. It introduces college students to professional opportunities within the Park Service and, in doing so, addresses two key NPS priorities: developing a workforce that reflects the broad diversity of American society, and engaging more youth in the great outdoors. Thirty students will attend each of the following week-long sessions:

* Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming), March 4-8, in cooperation with the Teton Science Schools, Grand Teton National Park Foundation, and Grand Teton Association

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee), March 11-17

* Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska), March 11-17.

NPS Academy members will be introduced to a range of National Park Service careers through seminars, workshops, field trips, and recreational activities. After successfully completing the March course, participants will serve in SCA internships this summer at a variety of national parks to gain the skills and experience necessary to be eligible for employment with the NPS.

“The National Park Service estimates that 12 percent of its employees started their careers with SCA,” notes SCA President & CEO Dale Penny. “NPS Academy is another way in which SCA provides college students with a proven pathway to professional opportunities, while helping our national parks build a more inclusive and relevant 21st century workforce.”

Through Alternative Spring Break, NPS Academy, urban conservation programs and additional award-winning initiatives, SCA fosters an enduring ethic of stewardship among young adults aged 15-25. Founded in 1957, SCA has engaged more than 70,000 individuals in parks, forests and cities, and 60 percent of SCA alumni remain active conservationists through their careers and community activities.

“I want to preserve our national parks – the forests, mountains and lakes we all take refuge in,” says Jessica Jia, a 19-year-old civil engineering major. “With this opportunity, I find myself at the doorstep of a career spent doing what I love – enjoying, preserving, and sharing the wonders of the outdoors. I can’t wait to start!”