Todd Nelson is the volunteer coordinator at Grand Canyon National Park. We asked him about his career, the National Park Service centennial, and the future of America’s Best Idea.
Why do you like working with volunteers?
What solidified it for me was working with college students on alternative [service] spring breaks. The students represent a variety of majors and I inform them that whatever they are studying, there is a position for them in the National Park Service, that we’re more than the different “-ologists.”
SCA alum Lauren Ray reveals how her SCA internship with the National Park Service helped her discover her public-lands-loving hip hop alter ego, the Rapping Ranger.
“When it comes to getting kids outdoors, no one has done more over the past sixty years than Liz Putnam,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, as he presented Liz with the Society’s Robert Marshall Award at a VIP-studded ceremony in Washington, DC.
In bestowing the award, named for one of The Wilderness Society’s founders, to SCA’s founder, the two organizations celebrated the notion of empowering young people to protect wild places.
SCA alumna Sarah Calhoun (SCA 2002, ’03, ‘04) – the founder of Red Ants Pants, a specialty line of women’s workwear – was recently featured in The Huﬃngton Post and on Silicon Valley start-up expert Steve Blank’s popular podcast. In each, Sarah shares her story of beating the odds in the highly competitive apparel industry and the rewards of living in Big Sky Country.
Look around a national park and you may see brown bears, blue herons, or Redwood trees.
But you’re less likely to see any people of color. Statistically, 80% of park visitors are white as are park staffs, even as projections show whites will be in the minority within 30 years.
As the National Park Service counts down to its Centennial, I struggle with the lack of diversity in national parks, and why even our urban park systems are segregated.
Parker Davis is a four-time alumnus of SCA’s Seattle community crew program. When an SCA staff member saw the announcement of Parker’s college graduation in June 2015, he sent a note Kit Lewis, Parker’s mother. Kit’s response was powerful and poignant, and as you’ll see she’s authorized SCA to share it.
“Something different” is what Jessica Aronson Cook was looking for when she first joined the Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a Canyonlands National Park intern. Little did she know she would find her future career and life-long friends.
Growing up in Houston, Stacey Kinney says she only saw ducks on oﬃce park ponds. Now, here she was at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in Lambert, Mississippi, netting and banding them by the dozen.
“Getting one of those little silver bands on is not easy,” Stacey declares. “The ducks start ﬂapping like mad and don’t even listen when you tell them to calm down!”
Davon Goodwin had already made a range of contributions – and sacrifices – before he joined SCA. An Army veteran, he’d pulled extended tours of Iraq and Afghanistan; in the latter, an improvised explosive device fired shrapnel into his brain and shattered two vertebrae. Davon says recovering from his wounds was nearly as daunting as recovering his focus.
“I’d lost my sense of purpose,” he recalls. “For a lot of soldiers, there’s no mission anymore. You get that sense of, ‘okay, what do I do now?’”
This past Monday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday by participating in the “California King Tides” citizen science project. This event was hosted by Acterra, a Peninsula-based environmental non-profit in the SF Bay Area. We had a great turnout (close to seventy people!), at the East Palo Alto Bay Trail, participating in the event.
Leah Duran is a three-time SCA alum who just finished a three-year stint on SCA’s Alumni Council. Soon after serving with SCA she began working for the National Park Service, first at Lassen Volcanic National Park, then at John Muir National Historic Site, and now at San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.
Yellowstone National Park contains more than 1,100 miles of trail and among the most impressive is the one blazed by Dr. Mary Meagher. A first-year SCA alumna (Olympic NP, ‘57), Mary is widely credited with paving the way for women scientists in the park service. “Agencies did not hire women at that time, at least with my training and interests,” she says. “That’s just how things were.”
The diary of the first-ever SCA crew tells of “15 young woodsmen” who built a new trail along the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, “swapped yarns” and vied in “glissading marathons” in their off-time. Then 16-year old Eliot Putnam started his journal exactly 57 years ago today. Eliot would go on to travel the world with the Peace Corps, CARE, Pathfinder International and the National Council for International Health (where he served as president) promoting family and reproductive health programs in developing countries.
Since a 2009 SCA internship at Shenandoah National Park, Don Macänlalay has gone on to do social media for The Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental nonprofit in America, and one of the most trusted. He began at their national headquarters in Arlington, VA , focused on Tumblr and Instagram, but soon moved on to managing all social media for their Washington state oﬃce in Seattle.
I had two job offers for the summer before my junior year of high school, and I went for the one that came with new boots. The job was with Student Conservation Association (SCA), a program that offers youth the opportunity for real jobs in the conservation field.
This year the Northwest Community program is celebrating 30 years of community programming and conservation service to the Puget Sound area. We’re reaching out to our SCA members throughout our history to reconnect and find out where they’re at today. This conversation is with Jesse Alton, ‘93-‘96 Seattle Community Program alum and crew leader ‘04.
Jesse is pictured above; 2nd from right with the crew he co-led at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2004.
This year the Northwest Community program is celebrating 30 years of community programming and conservation service to the Puget Sound area. We’re reaching out to our SCA members throughout our history to reconnect and find out where they’re at today. Our first conversation is with Qiana Patterson, ‘93 Seattle Community Program alumna and now Chief Operations Oﬃcer at Edlio, a Los Angeles based educational software platform provider.
After a decade of work related to environmental policy and earning a Masters of City Planning at MIT, Ellen started environmental consultancy Tohn Environmental Strategies.