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For my second round of service,I worked with the Pacific Northwest Regional Office of the National Parks Service.
I never thought I’d have an opportunity to work with the National Parks Service. Even less so, working with the NPS and being stationed in Yosemite, during a Centennial year. But thanks to the SCA and AmeriCorps, it actually happened! For 11 weeks, I worked with my supervisor on the fleet management project, which sought to fulfill a federal sustainability order passed by Obama’s White House. Like my last assignment, I was again the only SCA intern (which I understand is an unusual circumstance).
Fleet management was a totally new concept to me. Prior to my interview, I had no idea what I was signing up for. It was also an office job, something I always swore to myself I’d never do, because I dislike being stuck indoors. Regardless, I felt bold and eager to serve again, so I accepted the position.
The project was both partially planned and exploratory, so training occurred as needed throughout my service. I had to figure out a way to standardize an evaluation of fleet vehicles of all NPS sites (about 65 total) in the Pacific Northwest Region and help the managers at these sites complete their requirements for the evaluation. Once the planning and execution were figured out, a daily routine formed.
I became so engaged in the project, the idea of being indoors all day bothered me less and less. Additionally, working side-by-side with my supervisor meant I wasn’t stuck in a cubical alone. And of course, I was able to explore and hike to my heart’s consent every weekend in Yosemite. When not hiking, my awesome neighbors often took me someplace new, either within the park or elsewhere.
While on service, I fell in love with California. I had never been to the West Coast before, and it felt like a different country. In the tiny town of El Portal where I lived, my neighbors treated me with inspiring kindness and friendship! In the office, most of the employees were welcoming and many introduced themselves as former SCA participants. My outstanding supervisor treated me as a mutual partner with trust and respect, granting me the opportunity to help design and lead parts of our project. El Portal and the surrounding area was quite small and spread out (and my cell phone never worked), but I didn’t mind at all.
It was actually restorative and exciting for me. The Earthquakes, lizards,black widows, famous mule deer, and mountain lion which I experienced/saw were so cool! Yosemite was the first large forested NPS site I’d ever visited (I’ve previously been to Heritage/Historic Sites). I found a beautiful place filled with people who had beautiful hearts.
I belonged here. I found my park.
I don’t regret doing a second round of SCA/AmeriCorps at all. Leaving California on Christmas Eve was painfully bitter-sweet. It felt like home just as much as Pennsylvania. The friendships and connections I made there was so strong that even today, two months since my service ended, I still feel a pull and longing to go back. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and hope that when I open my eyes, I will somehow magically be in my El Portal apartment again. Maybe someday, I will be invited to work there as Yosemite’s Entomologist (my field of study).
I am so grateful for the SCA, AmeriCorps, the NPS, and everyone who supports their mission. I feel empowered and blessed, and hope I will somehow make a difference in the world. My journey was demanding, healing, and unforgettable. Now, my focus is graduate school, where I am working on getting a Ms Entomology degree from PennState.