The National Park Service’s Southeast Utah Group consists of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments – and some truly extraordinary SCA partners.

Ranger Karen Garthwait knows her sites can seem removed to SCA members who may have just left a vibrant college atmosphere. “Our interns tend to serve in small numbers,” she notes. “One, two, or three folks, working on a team with over a dozen ‘Green and Grays’ (NPS personnel). It’s important to acknowledge the interns are in a different place in their careers, with different needs.”

With four units separated by hundreds of miles, the Southeast Utah Group went the extra mile last year and appointed Sofia Nicholson as outreach and volunteers assistant coordinator. “We want to make sure the SCAs throughout all of our parks enjoy social connections and special support outside the office environment,” Sofia says.

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L-R: Sofia Nicholson; SCA interns Lillianne Kinne, Katherine Haywood, Kierstin Acuña, Matthew Hoffman, Rebekah Purvis, and Nicole Westcott; and Karen Garthwait.

Sofia ensures supervisors undergo special training, arranges weekend teambuilding events, and encourages a sense of community among the SCA members, despite the physical distance between them. The day of our conversation, she hosted an ice cream social for the SCA team.

“We’ve experienced a shift in the zeitgeist,” Karen states. “Terms like ‘wellness’ are more broadly understood to include mental and emotional well-being. That’s not something that was even acknowledged a decade ago…but we recognize it contributes to a more holistically supportive workplace.

“We are reliant on our SCA interns. If we didn’t have them, we could keep the doors open – but not much else in terms of the activities that are so essential to helping visitors enjoy their time here.”

The Southeast Utah Group currently counts more than a dozen SCA alumni on staff, and Sofia is determined to keep that pipeline going. “We want to make sure our interns come out of this with a solid professional background, personal growth, and the resources to make the most of this experience.”


Visit the SCA100k page for more on our partners and celebration.

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