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Night Sky at Saguaro National Park
NPS Photo
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NPF Supports Internship Placements in Parks Across the Country

Connecting all people with national park sites is central to the vision of the National Park Foundation (NPF), be it through educational programming for students such as Open OutDoors for Kids, community building through programs such as ParkVentures, or engaging crews of young adults to tackle service corps projects in parks. One important element of this work is ensuring that young professionals can envision themselves in parks, both as visitors and stewards but also potentially as professionals.

That’s why NPF supports internships at parks across the country, providing unique opportunities to connect with and work alongside park professionals, as well as bolstering the capacity of park staff with additional help. With over 400 national park sites, including historic sites, iconic landscapes, winding trails, and recreational oases, there are so many types of work interns may undertake. Let’s take a look at a couple of in-park internship opportunities made possible by NPF.

Next Generation Ranger Corps

Next Generation Ranger Corps at Saguaro National Park (Friends of Saguaro National Park)

At Saguaro National Park, an NPF-funded internship program is helping the park expand its programs’ capacity, control invasive species, maintain trails and buildings, create and deliver outreach to new communities, and more. The Next Generation Ranger Corps, or NextGen, is designed to engage young people at the park through paid internship and work experience opportunities. NextGen interns gain an understanding of NPS and park history, as well as the ins and outs of how the park operates, including resource management and protection, park maintenance, and visitor engagement. Interns are mentored by Saguaro staff, and work in many areas of the park, with the opportunity to specialize in areas of their interest.

It has changed my life. It provided me with the skills, experience, and connections to get a permanent job at Saguaro! Now I have a career that I love.
Billy Englert, program participant

As a type of service corps opportunity, NextGen interns often help run park programs and address deferred maintenance projects. In 2023, NextGen interns managed nearly a dozen hiking clubs from schools and quarterly wilderness and explorer camps, as well as field trips for 80 schools. They also began work on projects such as replacing light fixtures help the park become an Urban Night Sky Place, controlling invasive species in eight desert stream habitats, and completing work on 60 miles of trails.

A focus of the program’s recruitment has been on engaging diverse youth from underrepresented communities to create a welcoming and inclusive park whose staff reflects the local community. Since 2015, over 92 youth have participated in the program, with over a third of participants now working at federal land management agencies and 18 even continuing their work as permanent employees at Saguaro National Park!

Intern XL

A collaborative internship program supported by NPF, the Fund II Foundation, and its coordinating organization, the Greening Youth Foundation (GYF), the Intern XL program offers participants exposure to the National Park System, research opportunities in parks, and careers in STEM, as well as cultural and natural resources. Participants are given orientation materials to learn more about NPS, NPF, and the GYF and the various professional development opportunities each offer. Throughout their internship, they regularly check in with GYF staff and participate in networking and professional development events. At the end of their time with the parks, the intern cohort comes back together for a career and leadership conference, where they share about their internship projects, learn from each other, and network.

2020 Mosaics in Science Intern Tania C. Parra Ramirez at Glen Canyon National Park (NPS Photo)

In 2023, NPF supported the placement of six interns at park sites, including Freedom Riders National Monument, Pullman National Historical Park, Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Camp Nelson National Monument, and Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Over the summer of 2023, the interns tackled a variety of projects in support of the parks and their local communities: from connecting Chicago’s urban youth to hiking, archery, and kayaking, to Spanish language tours of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, to editing a significant article on attacks on Camp Nelson during the American Civil War.

Facade of a red brick clocktower
The experience felt really meaningful. It felt like we were actually making an impact on somebody else’s life.
Ben Aybar, Intern XL intern at Pullman National Historical Park

With a focus on recruiting interns from diverse, underserved, and underrepresented communities, the Intern XL program encourages a better understanding and appreciation of the important all Americans played – and continue to play – in the development and progress of the United States. Programs such as this one emphasize the relevance and diversity of NPS sites for early career professionals.

These are just two examples of the ways interns connected with national park sites both help fill critical needs of NPS while inspiring and training the next generation of conservationists, cultural resource managers, digital content specialists, educators, and more. Together with our partners and NPS, we’re helping young adults develop the strengths, skills, and passion for future career opportunities in the conservation space.

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