SCA Interns Bring Diversity and Conservation to Local Communities

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Apprentices Bring Diverse Experiences to Youth and Community Engagement

By Victoria Allen, RTCA Apprentice, Anchorage, AK,

Thanks to AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association (SCA), up to ten “Apprentices” are working with mentors from the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program over the coming year. Apprentices will work alongside one or more NPS professionals as they help locally based nonprofit groups, local governments, tribes, and national parks create community conservation and recreation connections.

Each Apprentice will help youth and young adults understand how nearby natural areas, healthy outdoor recreation, and national parks are relevant to their lives. Also, as a team, the Apprentices will help NPS build a more effective toolkit for connecting with young people, and increasing their participation as citizens in community-led conservation.

Some team members are working in their home communities, while others have relocated to work in their areas of expertise. All aspire to work in conservation and have a strong commitment to public service. “This is one way the Service is building local conservation and recreation connections and making the National Park Service relevant to communities across the country,” Director Jon Jarvis commented. “Tapping the energy of SCA/AmeriCorps members offers a great opportunity for NPS to connect with today’s youth.”

Coming from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, the Apprentices are stationed in widely varying duty stations: Albuquerque, N.M.; Washington, D.C., Anchorage, Alaska; western Mass.; New York; Oakland, Calif., St. Paul, Minn.; Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mich.; and Gulf Islands National Seashore, Miss. The Apprentices received training and orientation at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va. to start their 10-month assignments.

Drawing out the interests and concerns of community members is a basic tenet of the RTCA program, so all of the Apprentices will be working in their respective communities to engage young people and inspire their enjoyment of the outdoors.

So far, these Apprentices are deploying to their field offices and getting to work:

  • Karin Lin is following her interest in habitat restoration and conservation planning by assisting river-centered walking and paddling trail projects in the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Aaron Lowden, from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, is drawing on his experience in cultural tourism and historic preservation to help him facilitate communication among partners in his home village.
  • Emily Shively is using her graduate degrees in landscape architecture and urban and regional planning to assist communities around Minnesota with projects like the Great Rivers Confluence Project where the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers converge, planning the Taylors Falls Riverwalk, and the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail that will link nearly 400 miles of recreational trails in central Minnesota.
  • Alex Severino, who was mentored as a teenager and encouraged to get to know the Bronx River in her New York City neighborhood, is using her leadership skills and local knowledge to enhance the community’s awareness and support of her city’s abundant natural areas.
  • Ahmad Touré is serving the youth of our nation’s capital by working closely with three high school Green Teams. He will engage these young people and their whole communities to increase awareness and use of a seven-mile hiker/biker trail that links Civil War forts managed by NPS and provides green connections between neighborhoods across Southeast D.C.
  • Jayme Ohlhaver is helping communities in northern Michigan realize their vision of a 25-mile non-motorized multi-use trail along the Leelanau Scenic Heritage Route. The trail will help connect residents to nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is a key partner on this project.
  • Tiffany Caisse, a biology student and kayaker, is going to train volunteer caretakers to work as “Stream Teams” to identify non-native species and perform kayak-based cleanups that support the habitat of the Farmington River in Connecticut.
  • Paul Nettles, an environmental educator who has returned home to the Gulf Coast to start his own nature-based tourism company, is helping partner organizations and agencies carry out educational programs and events that engage youth in trail developments on both land and waterways.
  • Victoria Allen moved north from Washington, D.C. to Alaska, where she will train partners in GIS skills and help national park staff and rural Alaskan communities develop long-range trail plans.

More information about the projects the Apprentices will be working on, and all other RTCA projects, can be found listed by state at The Apprentices promise to report on their experiences using social media like a Facebook page, so plan to hear from them as these projects go forward.

More Information…

Contact Information
Name: Alan Turnbull
Phone Number: 202-354-6930