Volunteer Leader

Abigail Edwards, Bio 92, Spring 2014


My internship with the National park Service is sadly coming to an end after about 5 months of working here. It was a new experience to intern during the school semester and balance classes, club activities, and an internship. It was a crucial growing experience because often times remaining balance of the different priorities in our lives is the key to be successful in each area.

GGNPC volunteersReflecting on my learning goals from my midterm paper, my first learning objective was to work with the zone stewards and gardeners to lead volunteer projects that preserve the park’s natural and cultural features.  Through multiple volunteer projects including weeding, sand removal, sign repainting, native planting, and etc. I feel that I have accomplished this goal. It is important to maintain the parks so they can remain beautiful and safe for everyone to come and enjoy. By cleaning the trails through removing sand, branches, and large stones hikers and bikers are safe from potential tripping hazards and accidents. Also by planting and weeding it helps to beautify the parks and helps volunteers feel ownership over the park and increases their chances of visiting the parks again. I also feel great being able to help out the zone stewards who usually run the volunteer programs by themselves. I am able to run and get extra tools if needed and I can drive to the compost yard during the volunteer program to dump compost so that the zone steward doesn’t have to make multiple trips to the compost yard after the program. I feel happy to lend a hand to the hard working staff.

My second learning goal was to understand all the behind the scenes of coordinating a volunteer program and look into how the National Park Service operated.  At first I thought that all park rangers did was mostly hike and frolic in the beautiful fields under the sun all day and engage with the visitors. I have since learned that there is a lot of planning involved behind any event that the park organizes. For example, just organizing a weekly drop in program you need to make sure that there is water, snacks, tools, and waivers for all the volunteers. And on top of having all those materials we have to make sure to bring extra waivers when we run out, buy more snacks when it is getting low, and wash all the gloves or paint brushes after the volunteer program. I also help enter volunteer hours and what work was done after each volunteer program to the online database. It takes a lot of organization and planning just to have a small drop in volunteer program five days out of the week!

more volunteersMy last learning objective was to work on outreach and engagement of new volunteers for the parks. I co-hosted an intern swap at Ocean Beach where we had other interns from different departments and agencies within the Golden Gate National Recreational Area participate in a volunteer program. This helped the other interns experience what it was like to be a volunteer with the Facilities Management Division. We painted over 100 feet of the Ocean Beach Sea Wall to cover up the nuisance graffiti and did a little bit of beach clean-up. I thought this was a great opportunity for interns who may usually work in the office to get outside and help beautify the parks they work so hard for the public to enjoy.

During this internship I discovered that I work well with other and that I also to like to engage with the weekly volunteers. I really appreciate the interactions that I have with the volunteer and hearing what bring them out to volunteer even though they have busy lives. I also learned to be very flexible during this internship. My day is not always predictable and can involve running around doing errands for my supervisor Laura or going to different sites and checking out different projects, but it is always fun.

During this internship I really challenged myself to make the point to try to the drive the truck around more. I have had my license for over two years now but since I do not have a car I rarely drive. Throughout this internship I helped the zone stewards drive bags of compost up to compost yard to drop it off, sometimes making as much as three trips a day. This really helped me gained my confidence in driving however I feel that with even more driving time under my belt I will feel even more confident. I also need to improve my driving skills when driving on the freeway and when there’s a lot of hectic traffic chaos. I mostly drive within the parks so I am protected and had never needed to drive on the freeway or any main streets. My internship has also made me aware of how little I know about gardening tools and their maintenance. I now have been introduced to many tools I have never used before and have gained some basic knowledge on how to use them but I can always improve my knowledge on power tools because I have very little experience with those.

Beach clean-upI benefitted from the internship by learning to work with people from different backgrounds, improving my time management skills, and by being flexible in order to overcome adversity. The National Park Service is a huge organization and everyone runs their respective programs differently. The work leader from Tuesday can run a completely different volunteer program than a work leader from Wednesday. This means that every time I work with one work leader I can’t expect to work the same way with another work leader.  This is a good skill to have because in every work place there will be different people that want things done in a particular way and I have learned how to be flexible to people’s personalities. Between my internship, school work, and extra circular activities I have been learning to manage my time so that I can succeed in all three components. This is an important skill to have because as I get older I will only have more things to try and juggle to keep my life in balance.

I would recommend this internship to other students who think they have an interest in working with the National Park Service or in any other outdoor recreational career field. My internship allowed me to see what different positions and career pathways are available within the National Park Service so that I can get a feel for what I would want to do in the future. Also it is great experience to intern with parks and get to work outside during nice beautiful days and get to engage with park visitors and volunteers.

This internship has made me realize how important it is to me to have the opportunity to work out in the field. It is very hard for me to work an eight hour day inside the office and I really appreciate it when I am able to work outside with others. This aspect will be important to me in helping me narrow down a career path that I want to pursue. I will continue this internship by volunteering time to time on the weekends. It will be nice to come back as just a volunteer and work with the zone stewards that I have gotten so familiar with and tell them what I have been doing since I finished the internship.